Anti-Sarawak dam protests in Malaysia, Australia

Separate rallies are taking place in Australia and Malaysia in a collective effort to pressure the Malaysian government to stop the construction of 12 mega-dams that are underway in Sarawak.

In Malaysia, anti-dam protesters demonstrated outside Kuala Lumpur Parliament building on Thursday. They held signs against the Murum Dam and Baram Dam and called on the Malaysian government to respect indigenous peoples’ demands for a fair settlement of their rights.

Anti-dam protesters carry banners in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: Bruno Manser Fund)

In Murum, Sarawak, over 100 Penan leaders staged a blockade to stop the flow of traffic to the dam site on the same day. Their aim was to get the attention of the Malaysian government and the state owned-power company, Sarawak Energy,  and pressure them to stop the mega-dam projects.

The protesters hope they got the message across: Respect indigenous and human rights and provide appropriate compensation for the loss of their lands and homes.

Carrying signs, and food and bedding, they have taken over the only road to and from the dam site and are not allowing any traffic through.

Brihannala Morgan, director of the Borneo Project, said in a press statement that this dam, one of 12 mega dams planned across the region, will drown over 2,750 sq km of forest and traditionally owned land.

This is the second blockade that the Penan people of the Murum area have erected. The first blockade was in September 2012 when the Penan of Long Wat village held a blockade that delayed construction of the dam for over a month.

Sarawak Energy promised the Penan compensation and prime land for relocation, but failed to deliver on its promises. Instead, they are relocating the Penan to swampy areas that are unable to support their traditional agricultural practices and way of life.

Just before impoundment began earlier this month, the longhouse of Long Wat village was burned by Sarawak Energy workers. Details are still forthcoming, yet it appears that this case of arson was committed without the prior knowledge of the villagers.

“The world needs to stand up and take action against such rampant abuse of power,” said Morgan, adding, “The plight of the Penan is a fundamental example of corporate greed steamrolling human rights.”

According to SAVE-Rivers, the statewide network of anti-dam activists, the Penan are demanding RM 50,000 per family (about US $15,500), as well as 25 hectares of land, a 10 per cent share in the profits from the Murum Dam, as well as full compensation for their lost land and resources.

The Murum Dam is one of 12 mega dams slated to be built in Malaysian Borneo by 2020. The dam will produce 944 MW of energy, energy that currently has no purchasers or identified demand. On-the-ground efforts, such as SAVE-Rivers, work to coordinate indigenous-led resistance against dam expansion and massive resettlement.

Protest held in Hobart

A rally held at Hydro Tasmania head office in Hobart. (Photo: Sarawak Report)

The Huon Valley Environment Centre (HVEC) hosted a separate protest at the at Hydro Tasmania head office in a show solidarity with the indigenous people of Murum, Sarawak.

Jenny Weber, spokeswoman of the HVEC, said Sarawak faces the dire consequences in light of the government’s failure to uphold human rights.

“Flooding of Murum Dam begun last Saturday, while six out of seven villages remain in the region, and more than 100 Penan people blockade at the Murum dam site,” she said.

Australia-owned Hydro Tasmania is implicated in the human and environmental violations by assisting Sarawak Energy.

The dam project in the area is reported to have caused flooding on the lands of indigenous peoples at Murum, although most of the affected villagers have not been resettled and their demands not addressed.

Weber also implicated Sarawak Energy workers as the suspected arsonist in a Penan village. “We have been informed that one Penan village was burnt down in a case of suspected arson by Sarawak Energy workers.” Other allegations include communities reporting the loss of fishing boats due to the impoundment. An estimated 1500 Penan and 80 Kenyah natives will lose their homes due to the Murum dam impoundment,  Weber said.

“The construction of Murum dam would not have been possible without support from Western engineers and managers. Hydro Tasmania, have staff secondments in Sarawak, including engineer Andrew Pattle who directed the Murum dam construction. Hydro Tasmania is responsible for the displacement of indigenous peoples from their traditional lands. We condemn Hydro Tasmania, as they continue to assist human rights violations and environmentally destructive practices in Sarawak,” Weber said.

“We are asking Hydro Tasmania and our Tasmanian Government to stop supporting the Sarawak government in their oppression of indigenous people in Sarawak, stop implicating our state in this humanitarian crisis.  As long as Tasmania assists the Sarawak regime they are culpable for assisting the Sarawak government’s human rights violations.  People of Murum, Sarawak and International NGOs are calling for urgent intervention and an immediate stop of the Murum dam impoundment,” Weber said.

Former Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown addresses conference delegates in Sarawak earlier this year.

Former Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown flew to Kuching, the capital of the Malaysian state of Sarawak,  earlier this year to give his backing to a large group of local communities opposing the controversial mega dam projects in the region.

Blog Link: The Green Journal/Asian Correspondent

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IPCC report will make no difference in culture of denial

Re-posting this article:

 By  Clive Hamilton

This week’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report will be compendious, cautious, thorough and as authoritative as a scientific report can be. But it will not make much difference.

In the world we used to live in, the one in which the ideal of scientific knowledge held true, the report would give a further boost to an already valiant world effort to shift rapidly away from fossil fuels. It would give hope that we could head off the catastrophes of a hot planet.

But we no longer live in that world (otherwise known as the Enlightenment), the one in which we thought of ourselves as rational creatures who gather evidence, evaluate it, then act to protect our interests.

While the IPCC must continue to tell those who are listening what the science is saying, it ought to be obvious to any careful observer that the debate over climate change is not about the science. Continue reading The Conversation

Abbott dumps climate watchdog, skeptics rejoice

Climate deniers are rejoicing over the abolition of Australia’s Climate Commission, along with the sacking of its commissioner, Professor Tim Flannery.

New Prime Minister Tony Abbott wasted no time in disbanding the nation’s climate watchdog on Thursday in order to deliver his election promise right after he was sworn into office. Plans to scrap other climate-related bodies are now underway.

Professor Tim Flannery, 2010 Australian of the Year, was the head of the Climate Commission until Sept 19, 2013. (Photo: Gemma Jones/ News Ltd)

Jo Nova, in her website, screamed, “Taxpayers rejoice! The science-propaganda agency is gone for good. One down — scores to go.”

Nova praised Abbott’s Coalition government in its decision “to cut waste and to stop funding an inept unscientific agency which was unbalanced to the point of being government advertising in disguise.” She said the commission wasted billions of dollars on useless and scientific projects, including desal plants, solar panels and wind farms.

Andrew Bolt also welcomed Abbott’s decision although he said the new Environment Minister Greg Hunt made one mistake when he sacked Flannery: thanking him for his work. ”Thank Flannery? Hunt should instead have asked Flannery how much of his $180,000 a year salary he’d refund after getting so many predictions wrong,” he quipped.

The Coalition Government will also dump the Climate Change Authority– set up in 2012 to provide independent advice to the government on the carbon price and emissions reductions targets, along with the legislation to scrap the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Also set up in 2012, CEFC has been provided with $10 billion in funding over five years to support private investment in renewable energy.

All climate-related bodies will be streamlined under the Department of Environment.


Anti-wind turbines cartoon by Steve Hunter posted at Andy’s Rant’s website.

Abbott gained notoriety when he said saying climate change was “crap” and therefore not a priority in his government. The Greens have tagged him as a “climate criminal”.

Observers said climate change was a highly politicised issue between the right and left wing.

The Abbott camp alleged that climate change “is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world.”

In an interview with the The Telegraph, Abbott admitted “the carbon tax has been a handbrake on the NSW economy” and scrapping the carbon tax will assure Premier O’Farrell that his top legislative priority will give an “adrenalin shot for local business…”

Alex White of The Guardian posted two reasons why Abbott wanted to scrap the pollution tax. One speculated Abbott was a skeptic, but the other was more politically compelling because climate change denial stemmed from “powerful vested interests in Australia, including the fossil fuel lobby, mining industry and carbon intensive corporations” which “are heavy donors to Mr Abbott’s Liberal Party.”

Major donors to the Liberal Party prior to the 2013 election, according to the Australian Electoral Commission include mining company Santos ($227,880), Clive Palmer’s Minerology ($459,900), nickel miners Minara Resources ($358,000) and Mincor Resources ($120,000), Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group ($50,000), and oil giant Chevron ($28,500).

The Labor leadership contender Anthony Albanese and Greens Senator Christine Milne are both distraught with Abbott’s decision to discard the climate commission.

Albanese said in a speech on Thursday the move to scrap the commission was “shameful”, while Milne said “issuing instructions to close the authority was irresponsible in the face of dangerous climate change.” She added that in the context of global warming, Abbott’s action was a crime against humanity.

Blog LInk: The Green Journal @ Asian Correspondent

New gov’t enforces military response to asylum seeker boats

Re-blogging:

Asylum seekers who attempt to land on Australian shores by boat will be turned away to Indonesia, effective Wednesday.

Tony Abbott is sworn in as Australia’s 28th prime minister in Canberra on Wednesday and has pledged to enforce Operation Sovereign Borders to combat people smuggling and the influx of ‘boat people’ arriving on Australia’s shores.

Australia’s new Prime Minister Tony Abbott attends the first meeting of the full ministry at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday. Pic: AP.

Abbott said the government of Australia has changed and will impose a conservative policy against asylum seekers with tighter border protection.

Operation Sovereign Borders sets out a military-led response to incoming asylum seeker boat arrivals led by a three-star commander. The new government will also enforce Operation Relex II, an operation to turn back asylum seekers’ boats “where it is safe to do so”. Op Relex II  is the Australian Defence Force operation that detects, intercepts, and deters vessels transporting unauthorised arrivals from entering Australia through the North-West maritime approaches.

Deputy Chief of Army Angus Campbell has been picked to head Operation Sovereign Borders. News of the impending appointment came ahead of the new Prime Minister’s trip to Indonesia on September 30.

Major General Angus Campbell speaks to soldiers in Afghanistan. Inset: Asylum seekers aboard a boat.

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has also been changed to Department of Immigration and Border Protection to usher in the new era. Along with this, the Abbott government will stop granting permanent protection visas to undocumented boat arrivals and will reintroduce the processing of temporary protection visas which will deny permanent residency in Australia.

The Papua New Guinea Solution introduced by former PM Kevin Rudd has been criticized by human rights organizations as inhumane, and therefore not acceptable to provide a solution for displaced people.

Indonesian Solution?

Abbott earlier unveiled his plan to turn back asylum seekers who boarded boats from Indonesia. The $440 million scheme includes buying old Indonesian fishing boats, paying coastal village heads for information, and deploying Australian policemen to Indonesia to arrest people smugglers.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natelegawa said the policy is problematic and Indonesia is sure to reject it. He said Indonesia would have to differentiate between the political campaign Abbott was trying to win and what the reality would be once he is sworn in.

Australia’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, and Australia’s only female Cabinet member, Julie Bishop said the Coalition will negotiate with Indonesia on all aspects of its asylum seeker policy where possible. Bishop said Indonesia’s perception of the policy is immaterial and what is needed is ‘understanding’ on how Australia tries to work out a solution. It will be discussed during upcoming formal bilateral meetings with Indonesian officials.

In Indonesia, local observers were already displeased with the plan, saying Abbott insulted the country’s sovereignty. Local newspapers such as the Straits Times and the Jakarta Globe have quoted observers including Professor Hikmahanto Juwana, dean of Universitas Indonesia’s law faculty, who said in a statement, “Mr Abbott came up with these programmes as if Indonesia is a part of Australia, without sovereignty… He insults the government of Indonesia, making us mercenaries doing his dirty work for the sake of money.” Juwana called on the Indonesian government “to speak out against these plans lest it lose the trust of Indonesians.”

Mahfudz Siddiq, head of Parliament’s foreign affairs commission, also described the proposals as “degrading and offensive to the dignity of Indonesians”.

Tasmanian Solution

At home, prominent barrister and asylum seeker advocate Julian Burnside has proposed that the entire state of Tasmania be turned into an immigration detention centre.

He has rejected Rudd’s Papua New Guinea solution as well as the Coalition’s plan to process asylum claims in the Pacific.

“If politicians are obsessed with the idea that asylum seekers must be kept in detention then that could be legally satisfied by declaring the island of Tasmania a place of detention,” he said.

He said it would save Australia about $3 billion a year. He suggested the Federal Government can give the Tasmanian Government $1 billion a year as “a thank you”.

The response in Tasmania has not been positive. The We say NO to Declaring Tasmania an Immigration Detention Centre  Facebook group has gained more than 11,000 members in just one week after Burnside’s comments. The other camp, We Say Yes to Asylum Seekers in Tasmania, had almost 1,000 fans at time of writing.

Blog Link: The Green Journal/Asian Correspondent

New Abbott gov’t heads for environmental disaster, expert warns

A day after Tony Abbott was elected as the new Prime Minister of Australia, conservation groups are already worrying about the future of environmental protection and sustainability in the country.

Under the new “management”, a term used by Abbott in his acceptance speech at the Four Seasons Hotel in Sydney, his government will put environmental issues on the back burner to get the business back on track.

Tony Abbott (top) won the 2013 federal election to become Australia's 28th prime minister beating Kevin Rudd who conceded defeat on Sept. 7.

Abbott won Saturday’s Federal Election to become Australia’s 28th prime minister, beating Kevin Rudd in an overwhelming victory.

In a reaction to his election, however, Emeritus Professor Ian Lowe from the School of Science, Griffith University said Australia’s newly elected government will be disastrous for the environment. He finds the Coalition Government’s policies on environment to be depressing, The Conversation reports.

Under the Liberal Party’s plan, Abbott will seek to abolish the carbon tax immediately, which he considers toxic and destructive for Australian businesses. The new PM also vowed to suspend the operation of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Citing New South Wales as an example of bad business affected by carbon tax, Premiere Barry O’Farrell has made it clear that the state’s black coal-fired power stations will suffer a loss in value of at least $5 billion because of the carbon tax.

Abbott will also abolish the mining tax which he claims undermines investor confidence in Australia as an investment destination and as a secure “supplier of resources.” By scrapping the tax, the Coalition aims to “restore confidence, stability and security for the industry, allowing it to thrive, create jobs and contribute to the prosperity of all Australians.”

Green groups have been alarmed at the Coalition’s plan to implement a One-Stop-Shop Environmental Approvals Process. The process will cut green tape and will fast-track approvals of new mining and other projects. Once it gives  green light to the petition lodged by the Business Council of Australia, the Coalition will offer State and Territory governments the opportunity to act as a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals. The States and Territories would then administer a single approvals process including approvals under Commonwealth legislation such as the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The Environment Defenders Office has already released a report that finds the One-Stop-Shop a process to streamline the process of environmental destruction. Read related article here.

Lowe said Abbott’s  proposal will turn the clock back 30 years on environmental protection.

“Since the Hawke government blocked the proposed Franklin Dam, successive governments – ALP and Coalition – have curbed the worst excesses of growth-oriented states, which are prepared to approve irresponsible developments. Even our National Parks are no longer safe,” he said.

Other plans in the Coalition pipeline include a go for mineral exploration activities; agricultural land exploration for seam coal gas; approval of uranium exports to India; examination of the potential of thorium as an energy source for export; and a review of the former government’s White Paper on energy and resources, among other things.

Relevant links to the new government’s policies are here, including resources and energy plans.

Blog Link: Asian Correspondent’s Green Journal