Sarawak Energy assures it will continue to help Bakun Resettlement Scheme folk

BLNA Chairman Pemanca Tony Kulleh (eighth right) and Assistant Manager for Community Relations Augustine Supen Taja (seventh right) together with community leaders at the Sungai Asap burial ground.

KUCHING, Jan 17: Sarawak Energy Berhad has assured residents of 15 longhouses at the Bakun Resettlement Scheme in Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan of its commitment to enhance their social well-being.

According to a press release, these longhouse folk have benefitted from various development projects from Sarawak Energy ever since the state energy developer completed the acquisition of Sarawak Hidro — owner and operator of Bakun Hydroelectric Plant (HEP) — from the Ministry of Finance in 2017.

Located about two hours by road from Bintulu and one hour from the hydropower plant, the settlement was established in 1998 when 15 longhouses, comprising the Kayan, Kenyah, Kajang and Penan communities, were relocated from the Balui River in the Upper Rajang to make way for the 2,400MW Bakun HEP.

Based on the philosophy that project-affected communities should benefit positively from its presence, Sarawak Energy said its new social investment programmes in the area focus on education, cultural heritage and safety as well as entrepreneurship development and capacity building.

“We have engaged with the communities who informed us of some of the challenges and discussed measures that would address these through a comprehensive framework,” explained Sarawak Energy general manager (Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability) Jiwari Abdullah in the statement today.

Following the engagements, the CSR projects have expanded to include assistance on infrastructure upgrades as the resettled community is growing and thriving with longhouses recording increases in the number of households.

“As a result of the various dialogues, we are partnering the community through committees such as Balui Lake Native Association (BLNA) and Peng Maren-Maren Uma (Longhouse Chiefs Association) on programmes to benefit the communities,” Jiwari added.

New community projects with Sarawak Energy include land-levelling works to expand the traditional burial grounds as well as to extend the “tanah payung” (communal land) to cater for the growing longhouse population.

Since the community resettled in 1998, the two burial grounds at Sungai Asap and Sungai Koyan have reached full capacity with the 15 longhouses in the resettlement area sharing the sites.

To expand the Sungai Asap burial grounds, land levelling works commenced last month to level terrain and create a terrace system to maximise the cemetery site and protect the area from erosion by building a drainage system. The next phase involves expanding the Sungai Koyan burial grounds.

To kickstart works, a traditional “dayong bungan” ritual was held to seek permission and blessings from the dead by Bungan high priest Evong Ing, while Pastor Paul Jalong led the Christian prayer session.

Evong Ing (seated) performing the ‘dayong bungan’ ritual to seek permission and blessings from the ancestors.

The ceremony was attended by longhouse chiefs and representatives. Also present were Peng Maren-Maren Uma chairman Ellison Duren Lihan and Sarawak Energy’s assistant manager (Community Relations) Augustine Supen Taja.

Sarawak Energy is also assisting the communities in land levelling works to cater for longhouse expansion.

First on the list is the “tanah payung” or communal land for Uma Kelap, which has experienced an increase in its household population since the resettlement.

Once the levelling work is completed, the residents plan to build another 50 units of houses next to the existing longhouse.

Residents of Uma Kelap in a group photo at the new site for the longhouse extension.

When the residents first resettled from upstream of Balui River to Sungai Asap, there were 104 units of houses with a population of 477 residents. As of last year, the numbers had doubled.

The overall plan for the Bakun Resettlement Scheme includes land works for the remaining longhouses in the Bakun Resettlement Scheme, with Uma Ukit longhouse to follow Uma Kelap. Previously, land levelling was carried out at Uma Baha in 2015 and Uma Balui Liko in 2016.

Sarawak Energy will work with the Belaga District Office and the community leaders to monitor the progress of the projects. — DayakDaily