After the screening of the Bengoh film last night at Loyar Burok’s Pusat Rakyat there was a lively discussion on the anti-dam campaigns in Sarawak. There is a question if there is any lesson that can be learned from the anti-Bakun dam campaign that ended in defeat. Mark Bujang from Brimas suggested that the NGOs were strong to oppose the destructive dams -but the communities affected were not empowered to similar level. Thus after some dramatic banning of West Malaysian activists from Sarawak the campaign petered out. So this is an important lesson when the people are faced with 12 more dams-as a consequence of the defeat from the anti-bakun dam campaign!
Actually there were some empowerment of some communties viz 2 communities choose to move to different locations than the location suggested by the government. One, led by Bato Bagi, go to Naah Jelei and another to, by Gara, went to Long Lawen. However the defiance did not extend to electoral area eg in last state election the voters in Naah Jelei almost entirely voted for BN-the party that brought them Bakun dam and the same party which deprived them of many facilities in their old villages.
The problem of NGO who come with fund and tend to play the role of a `vanguard’ should be given attention as well. As far as NGO still do not empower the communities sufficiently and they lag behind they will feel like a weight on the the shoulder of everyone-not the force that bring everyone forward when they are in front!
Much work need to be done so tat there are sufficient conditions for the voters in rural Sarawak to make informed choices.
Such reality is also echoed by Sarawakian audiences who spoke out at the FFF screening of the Bengoh film this afternoon at the Dewan Seri Pinang. Sarawakians take this voting pattern as `business as usual’, in contrast to West Malaysians who dismiss the rural voters as incapable of thinking or highly corruptible.
Look like an anti-dam campaign will also need to do some work on the West Malaysians whose mental outlook differ much from the Eastern brothers and sisters.
The discussion touched on organising a road show by affected communities to West Malaysia-if the 13th GE is not going to be in November as some hot speculations go. More members of the public will also be invited to future discussion of the anti-dam campaign.