Bengoh dam’s hardsell tactics working?
How do you persuade the villagers to give up their ancestral lands so that infra structures meant for other people can be built where these folks have lived for generations? The Bengoh dam make a good case study of how hard sell `works’! The villagers were united not to go at the beginning-but slowly their resistance was worn down by a combination of segmentalised breakthrough, cash inducement and more other promises which are not even confirmed at the time of the promises were made! Let’s look at the 3 step strategies here:
|Hard sell involved to remove the original inhabitants of upper-Bengoh?|
STEP 1: From the villagers’ information the government as the instigator of the dam project first targeted the 10 civil servants families in Kampong Taba Sait-the village closest to the main road. Once the civil servants are overcome (possibly with inducement of promotions,or threat of sacking?) they were probably turned into the government’s tools to push other members of the villagers to fall in line. Given that civil servants are held in high esteem by the local community the roping in of these civil servants were strategic for the dam instigator. And this is definitely not the first time the government utilise the civil servants to push even unpopular government projects onto the people! Other than this group of village families the chiefs of the villagers were probably given loads of carrot and stick treatment to get these government salaried headmen to toe the line. (Already numerous headmen elsewhere were sacked after the state elections where they were accused of supporting the opposition!)
STEP 2: The villagers were given compensation money without a copy of the agreement so that the villagers could be coaxed into accepting the money with misguided idea of the deal eg they don’t have to move out of their ancestral lands -just move to higher grounds in their own NCR lands.Many villagers interviewed in the forthcoming new film on Bengoh complained that they had been con by dam promoters into accepting compensation money which require them to move out totally from their ancestral lands! Combined with the recent federal court’s judgement on Bato Bagi’s case these villagers are caught between a steep cliff in front and a hard place behind!
STEP 3: many promises had been instrumental to persuade the villagers to accept the dam eg the villagers were promised the possibility of rearing fish in the reservoir eg the Mambong MP Dr James Dawos was recorded in a 2005 speech to the villagers that it is possible to rear fish in Kenyir dam and other dams in the Penisular-implying that there are similar opportunities for Bengoh dam as well. Then after the villagers were told that they had to move to Kampong Semadang, into a new housing named Taman Tun Abdul Razak, the promise turned into free house for each family-most recently made by the Bengoh candidate Dr Jerip Susil. But a press report shows that months after the state elections where the promises was made the free houses remain a proposal which has yet to be approved! In fact the `free’ housing in Bakun dam resettlement was only approved more than 10 years after the residents refused to pay for them, and when there was a challenge to win the Belaga state seat!
Was it a free consent by the villagers to move out of their ancestral lands or that they were unfairly pressured to forsake what belong to them under the NCR laws? Would Kuching residents allow such hardsell tactics to be used in their name to remove these villagers?
Read more here.