Penans to be resettled in 20,000ha forests

This is written by my colleague Lian Cheng.

KUCHING:Two forest reserves of 10,000ha each is being proposed to be given to the Penan community who have been affected by the Murum hydroelectric project (HEP).

The upper Pelieran Forest Reserve has been proposed to be given to 183 Penan families who are to be resettled at Melalun, about 10km away from the HEP site. At present, these families are residing at Long Menapa (39 families), Long Luar (52), Long Tangau (28) and Long Singu (64).

The Danum Forest Reserve has been proposed to be given to Penans from Long Malim Penan (46 families), Long Malim Badeng Kenyah (35) and Long Wat (83) who will be relocated to Tegulang. 

"It takes a generation for the Penans to learn to be settled farmers. We cannot drag them straight into the 21st century. The forest reserves will serve as a transition for those who have yet to adapt to modern living," said Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing in an interview yesterday.

"It has been proposed that they should be given the forest reserves so that the older generation can continue with their traditional lifestyle there. With that, all 347 Penan families will have options. In addition to the forest reserves, it has also been proposed that each affected Penan family be given 15ha of land for them to generate income."

Masing, who is Bakun Resettlement Committee chairman, is also the chairman of the Murum Resettlement Committee.

"All decisions have been reached after consulting the Penan community. It has never been the government's intention to shortchange the Penans. Previously, we were ignorant of the problems that might crop up. We have erred in our judgment and we do not want to repeat our mistakes."

He said the government was not only looking for the best way to solve the problems of the Penans affected by the Murum HEP, it was also visiting the 1,500 Penan families affected by Bakun HEP who were settled at Sungai Asap.

"We understand the 3ha given to each family is not enough to sustain their livelihood. Therefore, the government has decided to give them additional land for them to generate more income. I will seek RM76 million to buy a piece of land, measuring 3,000ha, which will be given to these families," Masing said.

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