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Over 10,000 people were displaced by the Bakun Dam, a massive dam that submerged 700 square kilometers of rich tropical forests and traditional farm land in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Over 500 people continued to live in the flooded area, staying on 18 islands that were once the hill tops of their traditionally owned land. Now the Chief Minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, wants to extinguish their land rights too.

Taib recently announced the formation of "Bakun Islands National Park", which would encompass all the highlands currently inhabited by the remaining indigenous people from the region. The government announcement about the park stated “no claim to any rights or privileges in or over the area intended ... shall be entertained". In other words, all indigenous land rights claims in the designated National Park area will be deemed null and void.

The indigenous people were neither consulted, nor informed, about the plans to gazette this national park. The notice was only posted in the newspaper, which -- as the government knows -- isn't accessible in these remote regions.

The people of Bakun have faced enough! It's time to demand that the Sarawak government stop this injustice and ensure that the people of the Bakun area -- National Park or no National Park -- have rights to their land.

Letter to
Chief Minister and Minister of Resource Planning & Environment Sarawak, Malaysia Abdul Taib Mahmud
The people of the Bakun dam catchment area deserve to have their land rights respected. If the "Bakun Islands National Park" is to be built, the people who are living on the islands must given their right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (as outlined in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, of which Malaysia is a signatory), and must be given legal rights to their land.

As you are well aware, a notice in the newspaper is insufficient to inform the people of the Bakun ara about plans for the national park. As opposition lawyer Baru Bian stated, "How many people in the interior does the State government expect to have access to the newspapers, or be able to read, and even assuming that they do read the papers, how many would actually read the legal notices?"

The world is watching as the people of Sarawak are deprived of their rights and forced off their land for development projects that only benefit Sarawak's elite. Please respect the rights of Sarawak's indigenous population and stop the Bakun Islands National Park land grab.

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