PETALING JAYA: A timely visit to Kampung Tambatuon assured Kota Belud MP, Abdul Rahman Dahlan, that the villagers are not averse to the proposed construction of a dam there.
According to Rahman, the villagers remained cautious over the prospect of leaving "invaluable land" but were also keen to find out details of the dam and the government's compensation plan.
Kampung Tambatuon became the subject of controversy following a government proposal to build a RM450 million dam aimed at increasing paddy production and eradicating poverty in Kota Belud.
The controversy lit up Twittersphere over the past two weeks with Rahman and DAP adviser, Lim Kit Siang, becoming embroiled in a war of words over the project.
The latter, who recently visited Kampung Tambatuon, criticised Rahman for not doing the same and instead riding roughshod over the interest of his constituents.
On Thursday, however, Lim tweeted "Twitter Power! My informant says u r finally visiting KgT tmr. Classic case of power of "social media" 2force changes even in recalcitrant MPs."
But Rahman brushed aside the impression that he was arm-twisted into making the visit.
"I was there on an official basis and took the opportunity to speak to the people about the dam," he told FMT. "But it certainly wasn't my first visit to Tambatuon."
"Kota Belud has 240 villages and I spend nearly every weekend visiting as many as possible, including Tambatoun. I chose not to answer Kit Siang's incessant questions on the dates of my visits because he is being petty and I am not answerable to him."
Rahman also strongly emphasised the fact that the exact location of the dam hasn't been finalised as geological and social impact studies had yet to be conducted.
"If these studies find that Tambatuon is an unsuitable location then the dam won't be built there," he clarified. "So everyone is jumping the gun right now."
According to him, the consultant had narrowed down the dam's ideal location to eight spots and for now Tambatuon appeared the most favourable.
If Kampung Tambatuon is given the thumbs up, the villagers would receive the same compensation package as those who were resettled during the construction of the Beris dam in Kedah.
"They will be given new, better houses, guaranteed a similar income and be allowed to ask for any other amenities," Rahman said. "Normal development usually takes a few decades but here they have an opportunity for a better life."
"More importantly this dam will include a mini hydro power plant. We are proposing that the villagers be given a stake in this plant. The exact percentage hasn't been decided but their income will definitely rise."
"Yes a beautiful village may have to be sacrificed but that is the price for eliminating poverty in Kota Belud. So where am I going wrong here?" he asked.
Rahman pointed out that the same consultant was used in the construction of the Kudat dam in Sabah which faced the same opposition from DAP.
"The consultant told me today that DAP had whacked the Kudat dam as well," he said. "But now one of the poorest districts in Malaysia is enjoying clean treated water supply."
Rahman also rubbished an earlier claim by Sabah DAP state assistant secretary, Junz Wong, that the dam would force the uprooting of three nearby villages and leave over 3,000 people displaced.
"Junz is lying through his teeth," Rahman stated. "That would only happen if the dam is moved downstream from Tambatuon. Otherwise only the 600 villagers in Tambatoun will be affected."
"As for his other claim that the project would cost RM700 million, that is probably true. But I was referring only to the dam when I said it would cost RM450 million."
"If you take into account the total cost it could very well reach much higher than that. But once again, all these figures are still only an approximation because the project has not been finalised."
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