Conference calls for Sarawak to collaborate on clean energy

In a two day event people from a myriad of backgrounds are meeting in Kuching to discuss creating renewable energy pathways for Sarawak and Malaysia. Save Rivers and other local Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are holding the conference in order to push the agenda of renewable energy at a state and national level while ensuring community involvement in issues that directly impact everyone.This is the first time that people from rural communities from around Sarawak have been included in high-level discussions with government ministries, civil society organizations (CSOs), energy companies, and local and international experts. 

Over 160 participants are attending the event, including people from over 30 villages around Sarawak and Malaysia who travelled to the state’s capital to contribute their thoughts on renewable energy systems. Speaking about the collaborative approach towards influencing projects and policy, Peter Kallang, Chairman of Save Rivers, said: “Serious problems arise when entire communities are left out of the discussion for these types of projects. This conference is one step towards ensuring proper consultation for energy projects moving forward.”

The conference comes at a globally critical time as countries around the world prepare transitions to renewable energy sources. How each country responds will determine its place in the new global order created by the transition to renewable energy, but will affect its ability to improve the lives of its people and meet its Sustainable Development Goals. 

The conference organizers and experts speaking at the event agree that Malaysia is strategically placed to lead the renewable energy revolution in Southeast Asia. Christine Milne, former Australian Senator who was instrumental in passing their Clean Energy Package, sees great opportunities for Malaysia: “Government and non-government actors are already organizing for change, looking at how the right moves now will not only put an end to energy poverty in states like Sarawak and Sabah, but can build on the success of existing small-scale distributed energy systems that have emerged at the grassroots, spearheaded by indigenous communities.” 

Minister YB Yeo Bee Yin of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment, and Climate Change (MESTECC) echoed this sentiment in a messages to conference participants: “Malaysia has the opportunity to become Southeast Asia’s clean energy and renewable industries leader. Therefore, the Federal Government has set a renewable energy target of 20% by 2030. I am convinced that the adoption of renewable energy will help the nation to become more competitive. Not only can we set new standards for renewable energy in the region, we can also build an industry that will be able to empower other countries down the road.”

The CEC has drawn speakers and support from many state and federal ministries, as well as from the energy industry, international organizations, universities, and Malaysian banks. In addition to community representatives, speakers include Public Works Minister YB Baru Bian, Senator YB Adrian Lasimbang, and YB Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment, and Climate Change (MESTECC), and representatives from Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB), the Sarawak Ministry of Utilities, the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA), Sabah Electricity Sendirian Berhad (SESB), and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The speakers and participants do not only come from Malaysia but other countries such as Indonesia, Myanmar, the US, Australia and Switzerland.

The CEC is organised by a group of Civil Society Organisations: SAVE Rivers from Sarawak, Jaringan Orang Asal Semalaysia (JOAS or Network of Indigenous Peoples of Malaysia) and PACOS, a CSO based in Sabah. It is supported by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley; the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and the Sarawak Convention Bureau. 


Lionel Yap  

Head of Secretariat, Malaysian Photovoltaic Industry Association (MPIA)

“Solar in Malaysia has oftentimes been branded as “expensive” or “high-tech”. Other times it’s relegated to the “where it’s really needed” in remote sites. Solar is the most accessible of all renewable energy options currently available. So it is important that these misconceptions be addressed, if it’s to make the same impact here as it has had in other countries. This conference is an opportunity to show how doing the right thing, in this case utilizing solar photovoltaics, is financially viable and profitable.”

Thomas Jalong

Secretary-General of JOAS (Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia/Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia)

“I view this conference as a participatory and inclusive forum as it encourages the various stakeholders to come together to discuss, share, explore and identify socially-acceptable, environmentally-sustainable, and economically just models for energy development, production, and distribution. Too often, indigenous peoples rights and their views are ignored and sidelined, and consequently they are marginalised and deprived in many ways. To put it briefly, I am all for a human-rights based approach which involves inclusivity and sustainability.”

Dr. Daniel Kammen 

Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL), University of California, Berkeley

“It is inspiring to see such an amazing collaboration of community groups, kampongs, government officials, and researchers working together to build a green option for Sarawak. Green energy supports community health, quality employment, and a prosperous Sarawak and Malaysia. Our research and community partnerships have shown that green renewable energy is cheaper, better for local job creation, and community health than mega-dams and the related deforestation. With the world turning to green energy, Sarawak can choose clean energy and community health, or it can stay with environmentally destructive mega-dams that cost more, employ less, and turn away green energy investors from Malaysia.”

Christine Milne

Former Australian Senator and Leader of Parliamentary Caucus

“Malaysia can be a champion for renewable energy in Southeast Asia. Where it chooses to sit on this spectrum between leader and follower in the new geopolitical relationships evolving from the transition to renewable energy is yet to be seen, but the opportunity to lead in the transformation in Southeast Asia is wide open. This conference is an opportunity to strategize about how to become a regional leader, while learning from indigenous land rights activists who have been working on these issues for decades.”

Gara Jalong

Headman of Long Lawen

“My community was resettled because of the Bakun Dam in the late 1990s. None of us liked that. We lost our villages and a huge area of farm land and forest to the dam reservoir, but we only got a few acres of land as compensation. My community decided to not move to the resettlement site at Sungai Asap, but to move to higher ground and build the village of Long Lawen. Even though we are just above the Bakun reservoir, we did not get access to electricity in our village from the dam. With the help of NGOs, we built our own micro-hydro. We have been using it for the last 17 years. Without the micro-hydro, our life would have been very difficult. Now, the Murum Dam was built close to our village. We request to receive electricity from the Murum Dam.”

Message from YB Yeo Bee Yin

The Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change 

(MESTECC) is proud to participate in the Clean Energy Collaboration, Kuching. MESTECC welcomes the effort of gathering the stakeholders to discuss the renewable energy pathways for Malaysia. The Federal Government shares the vision of a renewable energy future for Malaysia with all stakeholders including communities.

there is an increasing global progress of switching to the green energy, led by countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Iceland, Uruguay, China and Australia, Malaysia has the opportunity to become Southeast Asia’s clean energy and renewable industries leader. Therefore, the Federal Government has set a renewable energy target of 20% by 2030. I am convinced that the adoption of renewable energy will help the nation to become more competitive. Not only can we set new standards for renewable energy in the region, we can also build an industry that will be able to empower other countries down the road.

MESTECC understands growing commercial and industrial energy demand. We have to provide enough electricity to progress, while addressing the negative impacts that centralized mega projects often entail. The environmental,social and financial costs of mega energy projects such as dams make sense as a very last resort.

I appreciate that this group of Sarawak & Sabah based Civil Society Organisations have organized this conference, engaging a cross-section of stakeholders including urban and rural communities. I hope that this is the start of a process of engagement which will continue harmoniously.


SAVE Rivers is a Civil Society Organisation which advocates for and empowers rural communities to protect and restore lands, rivers and watersheds through research, training and capacity building. For queries please contact: Peter Kallang: +6013 833 1104  


Position: Programs Manager, Full Time

Reports to: Chairman, Save Rivers

SAVE Rivers advocates for and empowers rural communities to protect and restore lands, rivers and watersheds through research, training and capacity building. We envision a society with good governance, whereby human rights are respected, land, rivers and watersheds are protected and rural communities are empowered to live sustainably with nature.

Originally established in 2011 to organize communities against a series of dams, we had a major victory in 2016 with the official cancellation of the Baram Dam. We now work with local and international partners to promote village-scale renewable energy systems, promote indigenous land rights and indigenous-led environmental protection, help develop sustainable livelihoods, build capacity in rural communities, and further the protection of all of Sarawak’s rivers.

Job Description: The Programs Manager will lead and facilitate the development of all Save Rivers programs and campaigns. They will do so by developing a local and international campaign strategy, consulting with communities, coordinating between local and international NGOs, organizing workshops and meetings, and facilitating communications between stakeholders.

  • The right candidate needs to have a passion for indigenous rights and environmental justice.
  • This is a small organization. The right candidate must assume many roles and must be a highly organized self-starter.


  • Follow Malaysian and Sarawak politics on matters related to indigenous rights, energy, and environmental protection
  • Coordinate communication between community representatives, local NGOs, government officials, and international allies
  • Develop, implement, and lead campaigns to promote human rights and environmental protection
  • Organize informational workshops about the initiative in partnership with the Baram Peace Park steering committee
  • Consult local villages about their concerns, needs, and ideas to ensure their participation in every step of the process
  • Fundraising for programmes and subsequently, submit reports and financial accounting for all programme related activities and events
  • Research policy and procedure relating to the programme as needed
  • Develop a messaging strategy about programmes in coordination with our partners
  • Represent Save Rivers at state and national events and conferences relating to the the BPP, indigenous rights, renewable energy and environmental protection
  • Manage programmes coordination between Save Rivers staff and other organizations
  • Manage social media strategy related to the work; regularly update social media feeds with current, breaking and/or relevant Borneo-related news; generate creative and engaging material for social media


  • Ability to work independently under tight deadlines in a high pressure environment;
  • Commitment to social, and environmental justice, indigenous rights, bottom-up social change, and building social movements.
  • Ability to manage small team
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Ability to manage details, meet deadlines, and problem-solve
  • Ability to work independently and multi-task with high degree of project and time-management capacity
  • Strong computer skills including proficiency in Microsoft Office and Google Documents
  • Must be organized, detail-oriented, and flexible
  • Language skills: English and BM required, local indigenous languages desired
  • Bachelor’s degree and relevant work experience
  • Ability to travel on behalf of the work and mission of SAVE Rivers
  • Flexibility and adaptability to undertake any other work assigned to you by the organization

Working Hours: Mon to Fridays: 8.30am to 5.30pm; Saturdays & Sundays: Rest Days. Lunch Breaks: 12.30 pm to 1.30pm. Some weekends and evenings required. In the event of your having to work on a rest day, you will be entitled to claim replacement leave in lieu of work done.

Compensation is commensurate with work experience. Full benefits package.

How to Apply: Please send a cover letter, writing sample, and and CV to We will review applications on a rolling basis until the position is filled.


Baram, Sarawak – In conjunction with the inauguration of a micro hydro project in the Baram area, SAVE Rivers launched a conference named “Clean Energy Collaboration” which will be held in Kuching in March 2019. The event will bring together key stakeholders for a discussion on sustainable and inclusive energy pathways for Sarawak and Malaysia. 

On the weekend of 12th of January 2019, a completed Micro Hydro Power (MHP) Installation System was officially handed over to the villagers of Long Liam, Baram. The MHP was built by the villagers with guidance by Civil Society Organsations (CSO) SAVE Rivers, Tonibung, the Bruno Manser Fund, Green Empowerment and Seacology.

The villagers from Long Liam, who were among those who opposed the Baram dam, said that the MHP is of great significance for them. Mr. Anyie, the village leader of the MHP Committee, when being asked for his comment said, “With this project, we show how rural electrification can look like without large dams. Development is possible without destructive dams.”

At the handing over ceremony in Long Liam, the villagers unanimously requested the government to support their effort to protect the water catchment area for their village. Logging in the water catchment area would lead to siltation and threaten the long-term sustainability of the micro hydro project.

During the press conference this morning, Peter Kallang, chairman of SAVE Rivers, also announced the Clean Energy Collaboration, Kuching; on March 15th and 16th, 2019 where a coalition of civil society organizations will bring together government officials, international and local energy experts, industry representatives, and grassroots communities. The goal is to discuss concrete pathways to achieve economically and environmentally sustainable energy systems that address energy poverty and energy needs for development in Malaysia. The conference will take place at the Pullman Hotel in Kuching.

Commenting on the event, Peter Kallang said, “We in SAVE Rivers, support sustainable development. We are ready to discuss and cooperate with the state as well as the federal government on sustainable energy. That is why we are organizing the CEC in March. We look forward to their long term participation and cooperation.”

More information about the Clean Energy Collaboration, Kuching and the registration is accessible via:

Released but not relieved

00002 Tatau Balingian Arrest

Miri – All the 11 villagers from Ulu Kelawit-Tatau under police remand were released after five days in the lockup. Although freed from incarceration, they are complaining about the manner and reason for being arrested.

The ten men and one woman were released by the High Court in Sibu under court bail of RM500 (Five Hundred Malaysian Ringgit) with two sureties for each of the eleven.

Before their release, they were being charged on the 30th of October by the magistrate court in Mukah, under section 341 of the Malaysian Penal Code for Wrongful Restraining a person. However, they refuted the basis of their charge. They claimed thatthey never “restrained” anyone but merely upholding their rights to protect their own property which was being invaded.

Relating her experience of being arrested, Lulong Anak Bujah, the only woman in the group claimed that she recognised the police officer who was putting the handcuff on her. Lulong continued, “We did not resist nor were we abusive when being arrested. While I was being handcuffed, I asked the police officers why we were arrested as we did not commit any crime but merely safeguarding our properties from intruders; that was when he hit the back of my head and pushed my head down.”

Lulong claimed that the police party employed for the operation came with around ten Four-Wheel-Drive vehicles. She said that there were more than 20 police offices in uniform involved in the operation and around seven of them were wearing facemask. She added that the police party did not tell them why they made the arrest nor did the police say anything else to them before they were being handcuffed.

The raid was carried out on the 25th October while most of the blockaders were away in Mukah waiting for the release of their fellow protestor, Nasar Anak Nawing who was arrested at the blockade a day earlier. Those villagers manning the blockade site on that day were the ones who were arrested and their tents including their properties burnt by the police.

The lawyer for the villagers, Mr. Simon Sia, who was with them at the release, said that the case is scheduled for hearing in Mukah on the 6th of November 2018.

Villagers’ water source destroyed by company, Police brutally dismantled peaceful blockade

30th Oct. 2018

Mukah – Iban people from six villages in the Ulu Kelawit Tatau gathered in front of the Mukah police station for two days to peacefully protest the arrest of 11 community members who have been detained since October 25th. The arrests happened in response to a peaceful blockade set up by the communities in opposition to rock quarry and oil palm company that has polluted and destroyed their water source and taken their land without proper compensation. The Mukah police forcefully arrested 10 Iban men and 1 Iban women during a raid in which they brutally burned their blockade, hit the women, burned their cultural artefacts, confiscated and burned their handphones, stole their property, and looted and destroyed the rest of their camp.

Three companies, all subsidiaries of Ta Ann, have been working in the area of the Ulu Kelawit-Tatau since 2012. The oil palm company, Cipta Sendirian Berhad, originally compensated the villagers for their land, but has discontinued payments. After the oil palm company came in, Stone Head Sendirian Berhad, the sandstone rock quarry company, started operations in the vicinity. An additional subsidiary of Ta Ann began another monoculture tree plantation.

These companies, and particularly the operations of the rock quarry, have destroyed the Sungai Besangin, their river source. At first the water became extremely poisonous and polluted and killed their paddy fields and crops. And then the river completely dried up. Through the loss of their water source, villagers have lost their source of livelihood as they are no longer able to grow crops or fish on the river. They have also lost their source of food and drinking water.

When the villagers began to notice the impacts of the Ta Ann companies on their rivers they wrote letters to their headmen and the companies, asking to have a discussion about how to fix the situation. The companies never responded to the villagers, instead offering compensation only to the headmen, who in turn sided with the company. With the headmen on the side of the company, and the lack of response from the company, the villagers had no other choice but to peacefully protest through a blockade that they began in early October, 2018.

One man was arrest on October 20th, and was released on October 24th. On October 25th, the police brutally burned and tore down the blockade, arresting an additional 11 people. Villagers arrived at the Mukah police station on October 29th to hold ceremony and prayer, including Iban rituals of miring and taboh. Police said that the people they are holding would be released on October 30th, but they continue to come up with reasons to delay their release.

Mr. Nasar Anak Nawing from Km 16 Jalan Tatau, who was the first one arrested, commented: “What is the role of the police? Is it to protect the interests of the big companies, or is it to see there is justice for all? We were not looting, we were not violent, but we were there to protect our land and livelihood and to protect our rivers from being destroyed.”

Describing the scene, Ms. Imuk Anak Imang from Rumah Tandang said: “The police came without any warning and without telling us. They collected our handphones and they were wearing masks. One of them shouted ‘arrest them! Arrest them!”

SAVE Rivers is a Civil Society Organisation which advocates for and empowers rural communities to protect and restore lands, rivers and watersheds through research, training and capacity building. For queries please contact: Peter Kallang – +6013 833 1104

Honoring Matthew Ding Ajang

31369171_2143283575687481_182461016871796736_n.pngWe are saddened to share the news that Matthew Ding Ajang, a staff member of our local partner TONIBUNG, passed away this week from a heart attack. Matthew, a technician, was visiting a micro-hydro site in Long Liam with Green Empowerment’s Gabe Wynn and local leaders. His last hours were spent working – as he always did – in service of his people. After the incident, a small group brought Matthew’s body by boat down the Baram River. They passed seven villages where people knew him and cared for him, until they arrived at the village where Matthew taught generations of young people from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds. The entire village was there to greet the group, all in grief. “As I was sitting by his body on the boat, just before sunset, a flock of four hornbill flew overhead.” said Gabe Wynn, Asia Regional Director of Green Empowerment. The hornbill is an iconic symbol to the people of Sarawak. The beautiful and protected species is believed to have mythical powers. As his family and local community mourn his passing, we mourn with them. This is an enormous loss. Our partners Green Empowerment are raising funds in Matthew’s honor. Please consider making a contribution and read more about Matthew’s legacy and his passing at Local contributions can be made directly to TONIBUNG – TObpinai NIngkokoton koBUruon kampuNG

National Conference on Indigenous Land Rights

Miri – Malaysian indigenous communities gathered in Miri, Sarawak for a one day conference and workshop. The objective of the event is to start collaboration among indigenous communities in the three regions in overcoming the challenges they are facing relating to their native customary lands.

The event was organised by the Civil Society Organisations, SAVE Rives and Jaringan Orang Asal Semalaysia (JOAS). The participants & speakers at the conference comprise of villagers and activists from all over Malaysia, including some well-known land right lawyers among whom are the West Malaysian lawyer Dr. Yogeswaran Subramaniam, Sarawak’s lawyers Mr. M S Sandhu & Mr. Harrison Ngau.  Mr. Jerald Joseph a commissioner from the SUHAKAM (The human right commission of Malaysia) was also invited however he was refused entry to Sarawak by the state government.

The challenges common to the Indigenous communities from the three regions over their lands are encroachments either by logging, industrial farming, mining or mega dams. As a result, thousands of hectares of forest and agricultural land in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia are affected. In some cases the people are forcefully displaced. The indigenous communities, whose livelihood and traditions are closely related or dependent on their lands, rivers and forest, are thus severely affected.

In his keynote address, Dr Yogeswaren Subramaniam said, it cannot be denied that the issue of customary lands has been a longstanding struggle for the indigenous communities. This is because, in his point of view, “This stems from the non-recognition of customary land rights or customary land rights are recognise but the authorities are weak to implement relevant laws to protect these rights.”

There are hundreds of land court cases in Malaysia by the indigenous peoples over the over the encroachment into their lands by developers who are given licenced by the respective state authorities. In practically all the cases, the owners of the land were not consulted. In Sarawak alone, there are more than three hundred cases which are still pending in the court. Mr. Nasri Salbiah from the Sungai Rumanau community representative from Sabah said, “If conflict can be avoided before going to courts, everyone wins.”

Mr Yusri Ahon, President of JOAS and an Orang Asli representative from Pahang shared his experience on the land rights issues faced by the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia. He mentioned that a lot of Orang Asli lands are allotted for logging, plantations and infrastructure development. Even to look for forest resources the Orang Asli communities would have to apply for permit from the government. “The government is not concerned about Orang Asli rights but are concerned about people who can give them benefits which exclude the Orang Asli”, said Yusri.

The declaration named “Malaysian Indigenous Peoples’ Declaration on Customary Right Land” will be submitted to the various State Governments, the Federal Government and political parties in Malaysia.
End of Release