Press Statement By Irene Chang:
The setting up of the special task force committee to investigate into the recent Baleh logjam would serve no purpose, if after its investigation, the task force does not reveal the findings of its report to the people.
This was what had happened after the 2010 logjam and a task force was also set up to investigate into the cause of the incident. However, up until today, we had only a preliminary report revealed in the following November DUN sitting in that year and which preliminary report had briefly put the blame on factors such as heavy rainfall, landslides and over-saturation of soil.
And aside from this preliminary report, there was a lot of finger-pointing in the incident in 2010. Today, we see the same finger-pointing following the recent Baleh incident. Blame has been put on the construction works at the site of HEP dam, the shifting cultivation and the indiscriminate logging activities at the head waters of Batang Baleh. At the end of the day, would this Baleh logjam end up just like the 2010 incident, where the cause of the logjam would never be known and no actions would be taken to ensure that such environmental and ecological catastrophe would ever be allowed to happen again. This would reflect badly on the sincerity of the state government to protect and restore the eco-system of our Rejang River and also the livelihood of our people who depend on the mighty river for survival.
The State government needs to adopt a different approach through the special task force set up for the investigation. A time frame needs to be set for this task force to complete their task. They should be expected to investigate the incident thoroughly, to assess the possible actions to be taken, to bring the culprits to task and to make its recommendations to mitigate the economic loss suffered by the people within this time frame. This report should also be made public and accessible to the people.
The task force should also look into establishing a Compensation Fund for all those people whose livelihood has been adversely affected by the logjams, especially those who carry out aquaculture industry in Rejang River and who had suffered a great loss because the logjam had reduced the river’s oxygen levels and which had killed the fishes farmed by them. In fact, I have received of such a complaint from an aquaculture farmer who had incurred a big loss when many of his fishes died. These people are already at their wits’ end to keep their business going in this challenging pandemic time. The destruction of their fishes as caused by the logjam in the river was devastating to them.
Sarawak state government needs to take responsibility and to give an account to the people through the special task force for the destruction to the eco-system of our Rejang River. Strict follow up actions also need to be taken to make sure that such a logjam would never ever happen again to devastate our eco-system and the livelihood of the people.