Sarawakian first as SAVE Rivers chairman wins Seacology prize

Kallang receiving the Seacology prize from Silverstein (left), while Randolph looks on.

KUCHING, Oct 1: Sarawak SAVE Rivers chairman Peter Kallang was accorded as the winner of the international Seacology Prize 2019 for his exceptional achievement in preserving the environment and culture.

He is the first Sarawakian and second Malaysian to win the prize after Sabahan Adrian Lasimbang won the prize in 2004.

“I am really humbled by the very thought of it. This is in recognition of our success for stopping of the Baram Dam and the government’s decision for stopping all mega dams. In short it was teamwork at its best,” Kallang said here today.

He said the success was possible with the contribution by so many who love Sarawak’s unique culture, the environment, land, rivers, flora and fauna.

“Those who struggled with us were from various places in Sarawak, states in Malaysia and overseas. There were so many individuals involved. To get the support and cooperation of all those villagers and supporters, it was mainly following the guideline of Free Prior and Informed Consent as stated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

“The success is also attributed to the many non-governmental organisations (NGO) or civil society organisations (CSO) working together,” he said.

SAVE Rivers started as a network of eight local CSOs, including non-governmental Individuals (NGI). According to Kallang, with the resources available from those organisations SAVE Rivers was able to start functioning actively the instant it was formed.

“This experience shows the important role played by NGOs, CSOs & NGI. We are an important component of a working democracy. Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, our fifth Prime Minister was one of those government leaders who openly claimed that he was willing to listen to NGOs and CSOs,” he said.

Kallang pointed out that the role of the NGOs were as the “eyes and ears of the government” and that the civil groups should speak up and point out the weaknesses of the government in a constructive manner.

“In Sarawak we had one Chief Minister who was also willing to listen to CSOs, NGOs and the ordinary people. He was the late Pehin Sri Adenan Satem.

“After our request, he invited SAVE Rivers and friends to have a private meeting with him. At the end of that meeting he said to us, ‘I will listen to you just as I have been listening to the proponents of the dam,’” he said, adding that the dam was cancelled by Adenan.

The prize which also included a cash award of US$10,000 (RM41,000) was presented to Kallang by Seacology’s executive director Duane Silverstein in Miri recently. Also present was Seacology programme manager Mary Randolph.

The prize is underwritten by Seacology president Ken Murdock in honour of his mother Lalovi Fish Murdock. — DayakDaily