Baram MP Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan yesterday said that because of their worries about the onslaught of the mega development projects, the Orang Ulu people had growing suspicion of Barisan Nasional and listened more to the Opposition.
“SPDP had carried out a post- mortem of last month’s state election results and found that there is a prevailing sense of fear among the Orang Ulu commu- nities, and this fear was being capitalised to great effect by the Opposition,” Jacob, who is International Trade and Industry Deputy Minister, said.
“We found that the Orang Ulu are very fearful about their future because they do not know what is going to happen to them when all 11 hydro-dam projects are implemented, including the Murum Dam in Belaga which had already started.
“Because of this fear of the unknown, there was an unprecedented split among the Orang Ulu voters, many of whom had alienated themselves from Barisan despite having been the traditionally strong and loyal supporters of the government,” he said.
According to Jacob, who is SPDP senior vice-president and an Orang Ulu himself, in Baram, the Orang Ulu are very worried about the RM3bil Baram Dam project.
“There are fears that the Baram Dam project may result in the uprooting of a population of some 20,000 people living in 25 settlements,” he said, adding that if the project was not properly explained to the people, opposition against the state government could grow “bigger and louder”.
“The Opposition and some NGOs are capitalising on the coming Baram Dam project to full effect and they are creating even more fears among the natives by distorting issues,” he said when interviewed before chairing a closed-door SPDP divisional meeting here.
He said if the Orang Ulu people looked at the Baram and Murum dam projects with suspicion, other dam projects planned to be built in the Orang Ulu heartland could face severe opposition.
According to Jacob, it is not enough telling the people the usefulness of the dams; the more important being what will become of them if they must relocate.
He said the direct benefits to the affected natives must be spelt out succintly to make the dam projects attractive to them.
“SPDP is trying its level best to address all the issues related to these dam projects because we have to come up with plausible answers before the next parliamentary election, or our seats will be at great risk,” Jacob said.
He noted that in the April 16 state election, there was a marked decline in support for the Barisan in many Orang Ulu-majority seats.
Barisan lost Ba’Kelalan and managed to win in Telang Usan by only 895 votes. Previously, Barisan won these seats by big margins.
By STEPHEN THEN