Malaysia tribal groups protest world hydro meeting


KUCHING: About 300 Borneo tribes people staged a protest at a world hydroelectric industry meeting in Malaysia on Wednesday to denounce dams they say are destroying forests and native ways.

Officials in the Malaysian state of Sarawak have for years been accused of ramming through controversial dams, and opponents have harshly criticized the International Hydropower Association’s (IHA) decision to meet in the state.

Shouting “No more mega-dams,” and with signs saying “No forced resettlement,” protesters in feather-strewn traditional woven hats and decorative tribal beadwork demonstrated outside the meeting venue in the Sarawak capital Kuching.

Organizers said most of the protesters had traveled for days from the jungly state’s rugged interior.

“Holding the meeting here is a slap at us. We demand that the Sarawak government stop these mega-dams and start respecting our rights,” said Raymond Abin, 48, who said he was forced to move a decade ago to make way for the Bakun Dam, Malaysia’s largest.
The demonstration ended after its leaders presented a protest letter to IHA Director Richard Taylor.

The IHA’s four-day meeting this week is held every two years and includes some of biggest hydropower-industry companies in the world.

Critics have called it an attempt by Sarawak’s controversial state chief minister for 32 years, Taib Mahmud, to “greenwash” his development policies in the Borneo island state. AFP


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