DAP call for a national referendum on the RM15 billion Bakun hydro-electric dam project

Press Conference Statement (2) by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Miri on Thursday, September 14, 1995 at 11 a.m.

DAP call for a national referendum on the RM15 billion Bakun hydro-electric dam project

Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud has said that the Sarawak State Government is prepared to recommend to the Federal Government that the RM15 billion Bakun hydro-electric dam project be cancelled if the residents of Belaga are truly against it.

This is most surprising statement. Did the Sarawak State Government get the consent and approval of the residents of Belaga when it campaigned against the Federal Cabinet decision in May 1990 to scrap the Bakun project for environmental reasons, and finally succeeded in getting the Cabinet in September 1993 to reverse its earlier decision and to give the “green light” for the Bakun project?

Did the Sawarak State Government conduct a proper opinion poll from the Belaga residents before giving the State Government approval for the Bakun dam project – particularly when the Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Board acted most improperly in giving EIA approval for Part I of the Bakun dam project, when three other EIA reports had not been submitted or approved?

Furthermore, the Bakun dam project has become a Sarawak State Government project, and this was why the Federal ministers for environment, Datuk Law Hieng Ding, signed away the powers and jurisdiction of the Department of Environment (DOE) to be the final approving authority for the Bakun EIA reports to the Sarawak State Government in a gazette notification in March this year.

What then is the basis for the Sarawak State Government recommending to the Federal Government to cancel the Bakun project – when the Sarawak State Government has usurped the powers of the Federal Government, particularly the Department of Environment, and become the final approving authority for the Bakun dam project.

I have received complaints that the Belaga residents have not been properly consulted on the Bakun dam project and that support for the project had been stage-managed whenever there is VIPs to the Bakun area, like the recent visit by the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The Sarawak Chief Minister should realise that the Bakun dam project is the direct concern not only of the people of Belaga, but also of all Malaysians, who will have no pay high electricity tariffs if reservations about the economic and financial viability of the Bakun dam project are proved right.

What is most disturbing about the Bakun dam project to date is that both the Federal and State governments had failed to live up to the principles of accountability and transparency, as if they have something to hide.

For instance, up to now, all the federal and State Government studies on the Bakun dam project have not been made public. If the studies commissioned by the government, which have cost the people RM70 million, show that the Bakun dam project is sound financially, environmentally as well as in other socio-economic aspects, why are the governments so shy in making public all these studies – especially as Anwar Ibrahim had promised NGOs last month that they would be made public.

If Taib Mahmud is serous in wanting to get public feedback, on the Bakun dam project, then the DAP calls for a national referendum on Bakun, for Malaysians as well as Belaga residents to express their views after hearing the pros from the Government and the cons from NGOs and those opposed to Bakun.