Save Rivers pledges support for Suhakam to be more pro-active in Sarawak

MIRI: SAVE Rivers chairman Peter Kallang says he has previously by-passed Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) office in Sarawak as its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur was more pro-active and responsive.

So he is looking forward to a new chapter in the state under newly minted Commissioner Dr Madeline Berma as he expressed his support and hope that it will be more pro-active in promoting and educating the people on human rights.

“Do not just sit in the office waiting for complaints to be lodged,” he said in his response to Madeline’s statement expressing surprise at the lack of reports received by Suhakam in Sarawak previously.

Suhakam, he said, should organise courses and workshops to educate the general public, especially the civil society organisations, on human rights issues. These include labour, women, racial problems and government policies issues affecting the people.

“ They should be in touch with people on the ground, “ he added.

Relating his experience, he said the Suhakam headquarters in Kuala Lumpur is more pro-active and had worked with him in many cases in the state previously.

Madeline had expressed surprise at the small number of complaints received by Suhakam from Sarawak in 2018 as a cause for concern. In an interview with online news portal FMT, she wondered if the scenario was due to either there was nothing for Sarawakians to complain about or they were not aware of Suhakam’s existence. She said the main responsibilities of Suhakam were to protect and to promote human rights, and found it disturbing that cases on land issues were not reported to Suhakam Sarawak.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) was established by Parliament under the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, Act 597. The Act was gazetted on 9 September 1999.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Musa Hitam was appointed the first chairman of the commission which held its inaugural meeting on 24 April 2000.

Madeline was announced as one of the commissioners in June this year with Tan Sri Othman Hashim as the fifth chairman, taking over the baton from Tan Sri Razali Ismail.


The article, “Some activists are preying on the Penans, says state rep” as reported in Free Malaysia Today (FMT) is far from the truth. Activist and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) fulfill needs in environmental, economic, infrastructure and social justice which are either neglected or abused by parties concerned.

The responsibility for the construction of infrastructure and providing public amenities lies with the government. For that reason, the government imposes tax on the public and establishes government departments that handle the various sectors of the public services. The elected representatives of the state legislative (DUN) and parliament or the government of the day are the ones who decide where and when the infrastructure should be built. There is no denying that rural Sarawak is the most underdeveloped areas in the whole Malaysia, despite the fact that Sarawak is rich with natural resources and human capital. The failure of bringing infrastructure and development lies with the government. The CSOs in Sarawak are mostly engaged in advocacy and minor rural projects generally on issues related to land, rivers and indigenous rights. Commenting on the situation, Penan leader Komeok Joe said “Why blame CSOs for helping the Penan? …Dennis Ngau promised to Long Sait that he would repair the hanging bridge. The Penan were waiting for a few years for Dennis to fulfill his promise but he failed to do so. So the public and CSOs help build Long Sait a new bridge.” 

The majority of activists working for CSO are either volunteers (no salary) or are paid nominal amount of living allowance. This is why there is an acute scarcity of dedicated and competent youth in Sarawak willing to serve in the CSOs. A lot of them spend time consulting, discussing and working with the Penans and other indigenous communities in the villages and rural settlements. These activists are “walking the talk” in actual sense. In saying that the CSOs are taking advantage of the Penans for their own benefit shows that YB Dennis Ngau does not know what is happening on the ground.

CSOs fight for the rights of the people when the government fails in this regard. Harrison Ngau, a prominent lands right lawyer and activist since the 1980s in commenting said, “Not only the Penans but other Bumiputras like the Malays, Melanaus and Dayaks have also lost their rights to customary right land, continued to suffer highest rate of poverty and environmental destructions as a result of policies and laws of the Sarawak government.”

Mark Bujang, who is a qualified geologist by training and an indigenous right activist for more than 20 years, said, “(YB) Dennis should not be making sweeping statements but name the CSO whom he claims to be taking advantage of the Penans”Thomas Jalong a the Secretary General of Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) said “NGOs that we are involved in usually raise funds for capacity building programs to empower the marginalised communities and help in advocacy work for them.” END OF RELEASE 


Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, recent statement saying that “Sarawak is reaping the benefit” from the controversial Bakun dam is a lopsided remark. This remark could be based on publicity stunt by the Sarawak state government and Sarawak Energy Bhd. without taking into account the long standing problems and complaints of the indigenous peoples affected by the project.

The Bakun dam submerged an area of 700 sq. km of forest, farm land and villages. 10,000 indigenous community members from fifteen villages were displaced and resettled in Sungai Asap. In Sungai Asap, most of them are still struggling to eke out a living while in their original villages they had vast land for farming, hunting and foraging. But in Sungai Asap each family was only given three acres of  farm land. This is not enough to sustain a living, especially since much of the land is rocky, sloped and sandy. On top of that, many plots of the land are inaccessible since there were no roads and having very difficult terrain.

The government promised that the Bakun dam would bring job opportunities, improved standard of living and development however, they remained as empty promises. Despite of the many formal complaints and grumbling from the people that seem to go unnoticed and unheard. In the recent press conference by the state assemblyman for Belaga, Datuk Liwan Lagang, who is also the Assistant Minister of Water Supply and assemblyman for Murum, YB Kennedy Chukpai Ugon, they lament the slow pace development at Belaga district even now after more than 20 years since the construction of the Bakun dam, followed by the Murum dam in 2014.

As reported in Dayak Daily on the 20th May 2019, the minister Datuk Liwan Lagang said, “We are lighting up Sarawak and yet we (those living below Bakun dam) don’t have electricity. What we want is 101 percent (coverage). Other places, like Bau, is already having 97 percent coverage of 24-hour electricity supply from the grid, while Belaga town is the only town in Sarawak not connected to the grid,”

Commenting on the Kaiduan/Papar dam, SAVE Rivers chairman, Mr. Peter Kallang said, “In any mega project which is affecting the environment, properties and people the Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as stated in the United Nation Declaration on Right of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) must be seriously observed. Any social and environmental wellbeing must never be compromised by economic objectives.”

“Why should they build a mega dam when Sabah recorded high amount of rainfall, Mount Emas and the Crocker Range as natural reservoir, supplying water to the Papar river which never runs dry. It does not make sense unless the government is trying to harvest the timber on the hills at the proposed site.” commented, Mr. Jackly Likinsim, a local from Kampung Biusang, Papar.

Clean Energy Collaboration Kuching agrees on way forward for renewable energy in Sarawak

Kuching 15-16 March: After two days of discussions and panels between ministers, government officials, community members, civil society organizations, and industry experts, the resulting message of the Clean Energy Collaboration is clear: Malaysia has an incredible opportunity to lead the renewable energy transformation in the region, and communities around Malaysia are already leading the way. 

The event saw Ministers and Deputy Ministers speaking bluntly about Sarawak’s obligations to defend its land against destructive industries such as mega-dams, as well as the Federal government’s role in ensuring Sarawak invests in local clean energy systems to eliminate energy poverty. All stakeholders agreed that now is the time for Sarawak and Malaysia to ramp up its investment in small scale renewables and to collaborate with indigenous communities in the process. 

Deputy Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change YB Isnaraissah Munirah Majili opened the event by committing to this approach: “We are interested in working with communities and listening to all stakeholders, to create the most effective projects and have reliable energy from the Petronas Towers to the Kampungs. Large dams can only serve as very last resort after having explored all other options for energy generation.”

The Deputy Minister also reaffirmed Minister YB Yeo Bee Yin’s international commitment to reducing Malaysia’s emissions by 35% by 2030, as well as Malaysia’s renewable energy target of 20% by 2030. Local and international energy experts were quick to point out that neither of these targets will be met if large scale destructive energy projects continue to be pursued by the Sarawak government. 

Professor Daniel Kammen from the University of California, Berkeley spoke frankly about the need for Sarawak to end mega-hydro projects: “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.”

The transition to renewables was framed not only as a moral and social imperative, but as an economic opportunity. Former Australian Senator Christine Milne’s keynote address asserted: “The off the shelf technology now exists at a price that makes it financially attractive to decouple the generation of energy from fossil fuels and mega-dams. You can now bring electricity to people wherever they live at an affordable price and without damage to the environment.”

Deputy Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change YB Isnaraissah Munirah Majili stated that Malaysia can be a regional and international renewable energy leader: “We can not only set new standards for renewable energy in the region but build an industry that will be able to support other countries down the road. This leadership is not only the right thing to do, but will create many new opportunities for business development, entrepreneurship, research and technological leaps. We are excited to be part of the clean energy revolution that is taking place around the world.”

Crucially, indigenous communities who have been directly impacted by large scale energy projects were present at the meeting. More than 50 delegates from Belaga and Baram shared their experience implementing successful renewable energy projects, spearheading micro-hydro systems in remote areas in partnership with civil society organizations. These communities have built and maintained their own systems despite facing displacement from mega-hydro projects. They are showing that community engagement is cleaner and more effective than mega energy projects that bypass remote and rural communities, destroy rainforests and displace local communities.

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: