Semai seek injunction against dam contractors

Semai seek injunction against dam contractors
December 3 -- THE Ipoh High Court will hear an injunction application by a group of Orang Asli to stop encroachment by developers building mini-hydro dams in Ulu Geruntum, Gopeng, said lawyers.

Vinu Kamalananthan and Conrad Lopez, acting for the Orang Asli, said their clients from the Semai tribe want to stop the developers from encroaching on their ancestral land pending the disposal of the main suit.

At the same time, the stop-work order on the project, as ordered by the same court on October 14, will remain in place, they said.

The stop work order was issued against Perak Hydro Renewable Energy Corporation Sdn Bhd and Conso Hydro.

“The Orang Asli are seeking an injunction for the developers not to encroach on their land until the disposal of the trial,” Vinu told The Malaysian Insight.

Their suit to stop the project and seek recognition of Semai native customary land was filed before the 14th general election in May 2018.

In 2019, the Semai raised the issue with the then Pakatan Harapan government to scrap the project, which was mooted by the previous Barisan Nasional administration.

However, despite their demands, Perak allowed the project to resume on grounds that it was contractually obliged to do so.

The project involves building 31 mini-dams along three rivers, including Sg Kampar. The suit filed by the Semai was against the dams affecting their land.

Vinu said that the purpose of the injunction is to maintain the status quo, adding that the court would start hearing after disposing of the injunction application.

Semai villager Wah Sona told The Malaysian Insight that currently no work is being done at the site.

“We are relieved for the time being. They (contractors) have gone, but the tools are still here.”

She added that many people would like to go and hear the court proceedings, but can’t do so because of Covid-19.

“We have to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP). Only the important people (lawyers and Semai representatives) will be attending court.”

The project started with a series of 25 mini-hydro projects across the state that BN approved in 2012.

Another six were approved a year later, bringing the total cost of all 31 dams to RM2.92 billion.

The villagers also accused the concessionaire, Perak Hydro, of destroying their ancestral graves and crops to build a road during construction and encroaching on their land.

They added that the project had also affected the lush flora and fauna in the area.