Sarawak is one of two Malaysian states on the island of Borneo and is home to more than 40 unique sub-ethnic groups, or Dayaks. These include the Penan, Iban, Bidayuh, Kenyah and Kelabit. These are the last forest communities of Sarawak and the Bidayuh of Bengoh, are one of the many communities facing eviction, making way for the controversial Bengoh Dam.
The Bengoh Dam is a water reservoir being constructed to supply water to Kuching, the capital of Sarawak. Construction has begun despite reports stating vast reserves of water can be saved were the failing infrastructure in the city repaired, upgraded and maintained. There are also concerns regarding protected flora and fauna, overlooked within the Environment Impact Assessment.
Dams are big business in Sarawak. No less than 12 dams are proposed for construction. Described as Malaysia’s Renewable Energy Corridor, and claims that the program responds to dwindling energy resources and climate change, has already seen the relocation of more than 10,000 indigenous peoples as the first dam, the infamous Bakun Dam, gets under way.
It is alleged that the construction of these dams will increase the wealth and power of Sarawak’s Chief Minister’s family and their operatives. In doing so, this internationally condemned project will see relocation of the last of Sarawak’s forest communities and the inundation of precious primary forest and native habit.
The Sarawak Gone series explores the communities affected, the controversial environment impact assessment drawn up prior to the construction of the dam, how such developments have affected other indigenous communities and their right to customary land.
The series was made with anything! Sony HandyCams, both miniDV and DV8, pocket sized digital cameras, a FlipCam and even a webcam. The total budget was around AUD$5000 and many hours of in-kind by friends and colleagues.
For more information and other micro-docs in the Sarawak Gone series, go to sarawakgone.cc.
Produced and directed by Andrew Garton in collaboration with SACCESS and the Bidayuh of Bengoh, with the support of the Bruno Manser Fonds and Association for Progressive Communications.
Sarawak Gone was completed during a two year artists residency at Clifton Pugh's Dunmoochin, Victoria, Australia.