Jeffrey Jehom, Welyne: Development and displacement : Kenyah-Badeng in Bakun Resettlement Malaysia. - Bonn, 2008. - Dissertation, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.
Online-Ausgabe in bonndoc:
author = {{Welyne Jeffrey Jehom}},
title = {Development and displacement : Kenyah-Badeng in Bakun Resettlement Malaysia},
school = {Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn},
year = 2008,
note = {

Background of the research
This study intends to analyses the involuntary resettlement of an indigenous Dayak community due to the implementation of the Bakun Dam Project in Sarawak, Malaysia. The significance of this research is that it raises important questions on the impact of development imposed by the state government of Sarawak on the indigenous people who have been regarded as in need of change and to be brought closer to urbanization vis-à-vis modernization through resettlement.
Involuntary resettlement due to development projects or infrastructure improvements is not a singular phenomenon and in this context it is often argued that development projects provide employment to the local population and enforce development. However, a dam project also displaces local people from their homes and traditional livelihood.
This research focuses on the forced displacement of the indigenous communities at Sg. Asap resettlement because of the implementation of the Bakun Hydro-electric Project (BHP). It is viewed as an involuntary resettlement as the indigenous communities who were residing within the area of the planned BHP had no choice but to move to the resettlement. Their villages and native lands were claimed by the state government for the implementation for the BHP. Thus, the whole problem is focused on the question of why is the resettlement that is promised as a development program for the people by the state government of Sarawak being regarded as forced displacement.
In this research, forced displacement is observed at three different levels. First, prior to resettlement, potential settlers are faced with the critical decision of abandoning their homes and livelihoods, causing emotional distress. Secondly, after moving to the new settlement, settlers are often confronted with inadequate compensation for their loss of natural resources, social heritage and land, adding misery to their already distressed situation. Thirdly, resettling people into an area without any supportive resources, i.e. resources whose, purpose is to improve the lives of the settlers compared to their previous situation, fails to accomplish the very purpose of such resettlement.
Research objectives and Questions
This research utilizes Michael Cornea’s analysis, the Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction (IRR) Model (2000), which brings to the main objective of this research that is to examine the outcomes of involuntary resettlement of the indigenous people. This research compares the situation confronted by the settlers in Sg. Asap resettlement to that definition of “involuntary population resettlement” advanced by Michael Cernea (1998). In this definition, there are two sets of distinct but related processes: displacement of people and dismantling of their patterns of economic and social organization, and resettlement at a different location and reconstruction of their livelihood and social networks.
Other than that, the objectives of this research are: to observe if involuntary resettlement planned for meeting the labor needs for the oil palm estates is a catalyst for socio-economic development for settlers. And for policy recommendations, the sub-objectives are:
•To subsequently evaluate the problems of accessing resources.
•To study to what extent the involuntary resettlement has affecting the social and power structures.
•To show the level of changes in social and power structure influencing livelihood strategies.
•To examine the most effective network that has provided the people a platform to generate their livelihood.
This research details the process and impact of the forced and involuntary displacement faced by the settlers. Factors highlighted include the indigenous people’s coping mechanism and strategy in dealing with various issues related to land rights and usage, disagreement and differences in the new social structure, competition over limited natural resources and changing power structure and relations. Issues such as the problems within the household because of the changing family structure and changing role of elderly, men and women in the domestic unit are also highlighted in this research. Most important, this research focuses not only at the displacement issue but also illustrates how settlers rebuild and restructure their life and livelihood. Therefore, based on important concepts, livelihood, coping strategies and power structure, research questions raised are:
1.How do settlers cope with the fact of being involuntarily resettled and what do they do to deal with unanticipated consequences of the social changes that occur?
2.How do settlers manage the new social structure, conflict over limited resources and changing power structures and relations within their own community?
3.Which strategies currently used by these settlers have the potential to build a sustainable livelihood in the new settlement?
Theoretical background
This research takes the approach of regarding resettlement first and foremost as a catalyst for social change. However, resettlement in the context of ‘force’ or ‘involuntary,’ certainly does not ensure positive changes.
Dessalegn (1989) defined resettlement in a different context: land settlement, colonisation, or transmigration, all referring to the phenomenon of people distribution, either planned or ‘spontaneous’. Accordingly, ‘resettlement as in Ethiopia implies moving people or people moving to new locations; colonization as in Latin America implies opening up or reclaiming lands for utilization; and transmigration is favoured by those writing on the Indonesian experience and the word suggests cross-ocean or cross island relocation’ (Dessalegn, 1989:668). Palmer refers to resettlement as ‘a planned and controlled transfer of population from one area to another’ (1979:149). Tadros (1979:122), in analyzing resettlement schemes in Egypt, applied the United Nations definition of human settlement as: ‘development of viable communities on new or unused land through the introduction of people’ and further defined resettlement in two models: spontaneous and paternalistic. The spontaneous model leaves full scope for individual initiatives, and no support is provided by national or international organisations. No attention is paid to the proper place and function of the settlement within the national context. In the paternalistic model, technical support such as education, tools, equipment and other assistance is provided to the settlers (Tadros, 1979:122).
The above definitions can be used in a different fashion for this research, thus the term ‘forced’ or ‘involuntary resettlement’. In reality, despite the good intentions for developing communities, resettlement can also ‘under develop’ communities in the sense that such communities face greater hardship compared to life before resettlement. To this extent, the working definition of ‘resettlement’ in this research is a poorly planned resettlement through a forced, involuntary relocation of communities onto unused land that is inadequate for communities to develop a productive and fully functional socio-economic system.
This research has adapted the concepts proposed by Michael Cernea (1998), looking at involuntary resettlement in general. The concept of involuntary resettlement (in this research also termed as forced resettlement), which is the comprehensive concept most often used in the current social science literature, integrates ‘displacement’ and ‘resettlement’ into one single term, in which the emphasis on involuntariness directly connotes the forced displacement. The usual description of ‘involuntary population resettlement’ consists, as mentioned earlier, of two sets of distinct but related processes: displacement of people and the dismantling of their patterns of economic and social organization, and resettlement at a different location with reconstruction of their livelihood and social networks.
Resettlement refers to the process of the physical relocation of those displaced, and to their socio-economic re-establishment as family/household micro-units and as larger communities. Displacement implies not only physical eviction from a dwelling, but also the expropriation of productive lands and other assets to make possible an alternative use of the space. This is not just an economic transaction or a simple substitution of property with monetary compensation. Involuntary displacement is a process of unravelling established human communities, existing patterns of social organization, production systems and networks of social services. Overall, forced displacement of communities causes an economic crisis for most or all of those affected, entails sudden social disarticulation, and sometimes triggers a political crisis as well (Cernea, 1998:2-3).
This research investigates the implications of resettlement and the reconstruction of the livelihood of the affected settlers. Impoverishment Risks and Reconstruction Model (IRR) provides important variables to explore these issues further. Several important variables in the IRR model are utilised to create an independent framework for this research, and is explained in the following section.
As Cernea explained, the IRR is a model of impoverishment risks during displacement, and of counteractions to match the basic risks where the multifaceted process of impoverishment was deconstructed into its fundamental components. The components are: landlessness, joblessness, homelessness, marginalisation, food insecurity, increased morbidity and mortality, loss of access to common property assets, and community disarticulation. This analytical deconstruction facilitates understanding of how these sub-processes interlink, influence, and amplify each other. Reconstruction, then, is the reversal of the impoverishment processes, and can be understood and accomplished along the same variables, considered in a holistic, integrated way (Cernea, 2000:5; 2003:40).
IRR focuses on the social and economic contact of both segments of the process: the forced displacement and the re-establishment. The model captures processes that are simultaneous, but also reflects the movement in time from the destitution of displacement to recovery resettlement (Cernea, 2000:18). There are three fundamental concepts at the core of the model: risk, impoverishment and reconstruction. Each is further split into sets of specifying notions or components (as mentioned above) that reflect another dimension, or another variable of impoverishment or reconstruction (for example, landlessness, marginalisation, morbidity or social disarticulation). These variables are interlinked and influence each other; some play a primary role while others play a derivative role in either impoverishment or reconstruction (largely as a function of given circumstances). The conceptual framework captures the disparity between potential and actual risk. All forced displacements are prone to major socio-economic risks, but they are not fatally condemned to succumb to them. Cernea further explains that in this framework the concept of risk, as stated by Giddens (1990), is to indicate the possibility that a certain course of action will trigger future injurious effects – losses and destruction. Following Luhman (1993), the concept of risk is posited as a counter-concept to security: the higher the risk, the lower the security of displaced populations (Cernea, 2000:19). The model’s dual emphasis – on risks to be prevented and on reconstruction strategies to be implemented – facilitates its operational use as a guide for action. Like other models, its components can be influenced and ‘manipulated’ through informed planning to diminish the impact of one or several components, as given conditions require or permit. That requires considering these variables as a system, in their mutual connections, and not as a set of separate elements. The model is also flexible as a conceptual template, allowing for the integration of other dimensions, when relevant, and for adapting to changing circumstances (Cernea, 2000:20).
This model can be linked with other conceptual frameworks, to achieve complementary perspectives and additional knowledge (Cernea, 2000:21). There are four distinct, but interlinked, functions that the risks and reconstruction model performs:
A predictive (warning and planning) function A diagnostic (explanatory and assessment) function A problem-solution function, in guiding and measuring resettlers´ reestablishment A research function, in formulating hypotheses and conducting theory-led field investigations
For this research, the function falls under the third function, the problem-resolution. As Cernea explained, the problem-resolution capacity results from the model’s analytical incisiveness and its explicit action orientation. The IRR model is formulated with an awareness of the social actors in resettlement, their interaction, communication, and ability to contribute to resolution. The model becomes a compass for strategies to reconstruct settlers´ livelihoods (Cernea, 2000:22).
The IRR model clearly points out the results of social change and social disorganisation caused by involuntary resettlement. For the purpose of analysis, the two major variables used for the framework are: loss of access to common property assets and; social and community disarticulation, give a crucial foundation to exhibit the implications of forced displacement. Both of the major variables have been linked to understand the problems that are occurring in the community and households (shown as dependent variables - the coping mechanisms, the way settlers manage risks and the type of resources that people engage to strategise their livelihood). Each component respectively points out the results of change caused by involuntary resettlement i.e. competition over forest resources, state land and living space, and; dismantling of traditional power structure, communal structure and family structure. Although the central theme of the theoretical framework is forced displacement, the framework is expanded to the investigation of coping mechanisms, power structure and relations, and the way settlers strategize their livelihood. The research framework has aimed clearly at the impact of involuntary resettlement which is concluded in this research as causing the changes and social disorganization in the social structure of the settlers. However, the framework also extends to another level for the investigation of the strategies of rebuilding and restructuring of settlers.
Main research findings
With regard to the perspective to develop the indigenous people through resettlement program, as shown in this research, there are more losses than gains being achieved especially on the settlers’ side. What they have left behind (history, livelihood, rights and identity) at their natural environment cannot be retrieved, and uncompensated. And it is also a fact, as proven in this research that the uncompensated losses continue to be the sole grievances of settlers and the factor of causing continuous displacement amongst settlers. This research concludes that as much as the involuntary resettlement has brought many new challenges to the Kenyah-Badeng, many of these challenges are beyond their capability to manage. The underlying problem is settlers were not actively involved in designing their future in the new settlement from the very beginning the project was proposed. The settlers were receiving diminutive information about the resettlement program, and very limited public platform for them to participate or to voice out their concerns and suggestions before its implementation. The factor that causes their continuous displacement is the non-existence of natural resources and land (other than the three acres given to them as part of the compensation) for them to generate income (remember that most of them are farmers without any skill useful to work in non-agricultural activities). Their life in the former village was hard but they were free to explore as much resources as possible, and they owned their native land. In the resettlement, they are as much strangers to the place as to the way of life they are faced with at the new settlement. In other words, settlers simply do not know how to behave appropriately in radically changed social situations because they are not equipped with necessary living tools.
The study of the displacement of the Kenyah-Badengs is concluded in three important aspects as follows:
Power structure and relations - In power structure and relations, kinship has always been an important aspect that became the reference for any struggle over leadership issue. Kinship is viewed on a larger scale that includes not only blood relation, but also aspects such as others who came from the same root, indicating that kinship in that term was very much related to sharing of the same history of settlement, migration and culture. It has been proposed that kinship was one crucial aspect that binds this community together, but not likely to be true at the new settlement. The power structure in the Kenyah-Badeng community at the resettlement stand as a separate system, failed to bind the people together, no orders from the leader and not accepting orders by the people. However, they carry out the norm of being as peaceful community, as they have always been.
Coping through family network – Because of the failure of power structure and relations, the Kenyah-Badeng become family/household oriented in their livelihood strategies. The family network proves to be the most important coping mechanism for such challenging social environment. The family network provides a platform for its members to generate income, employment, social and moral support, education, and security in general.
Livelihood strategies – With the absence of promised resources, settlers are faced with many problems with regards to economic aspects at the new settlement. Their agriculture knowledge is insufficient to success them for employment in town. They mainly work on their allocated three acres of land with other problems tagged along as the lands are located at sloppy and slumps area, as well as faced with low grade soil. For their agriculture productions, they are faced with marketing problem because of the established sellers who refused to allow them to get into the network.
This research also humbly suggesting an alternative for settlers to improve their livelihood based on the available resources at the resettlement with the assistance of the state government, at least to initiate strategies for marketing. Settlers need “retooling” in many aspects of agriculture knowledge as that is what they have known best to build their livelihood. Government agencies should assist in terms of skill training related to effective methods to produce quality agriculture productions on their three acres of land. Horticulture should be encouraged on their three acres plot and this method has been carried out by the settlers in their swidden agriculture (slash and burns) at their former village areas. At the new settlement, the prospect of horticulture on pesticide free and organic food can be very encouraging.
The information and data for this research were obtained through formal and informal interviews, household survey, household in-depth interviews, and secondary data from available sources in prints, documents and internet. Questions for the interviews were formulated first based only on the research questions. At the field site, questions were expanded and added after numerous trial interviews with key informants to improve the questions before the real interviews were conducted. There were 55 household surveys, and from this survey, 20 households were selected randomly for the household in-depth interviews. The head of households were both male and female.
Outline of the thesis
This research is organized in chapters as the following summary: Chapter 1 provides the background information of the research area i.e. descriptively introduces Belaga, the region where Bakun Hydroelectric Project (BHEP) was implemented, the implementation of BHEP and the reaction of the local inhabitants. The resettlement in Sg. Asap, and the composition of the settlers are also discussed in this chapter. Chapter 2 touches the historical perspective of the Kenyah-Badeng focuses on their livelihoods at Long Geng, their former village before they resettled at Sg. Asap. This chapter also includes a brief history of their migration and settlement to Long Geng, and also the political structure in Long Geng. Chapter 3 discusses the power structure and relations of the Kenyah-Badeng. This chapter draws on the first stage of displacement i.e. processes of losing common property and space with prominent issues such as compensation, land rights and the expected involvement of local leaders in the whole process of the resettlement as highlights of the discussion. Brief history of land legislation in Sarawak based on the interpretation of Native Customary Land and native’s rights over ancestral land based on literature reviews is illustrated in this chapter. The purpose of this illustration is to understand the background and general problems of land identification within the Kenyah-Badeng community prior to payment of compensation. Chapter 4 focuses on the discussion of the coping mechanisms employed by the settlers in handling crucial issues pertaining to their livelihood at the resettlement. In fact, this chapter continues the discussion of the stages of displacement highlighting the other two stages by discussing in-depth the situation of “loss of access to common property and space” and “social and community disarticulation”. The headings of objectives outlined by State Planning Unit, Sarawak in the development plan of the resettlement are utilized as the base to explain the cause of the displacement and to illustrate the reality at present life of the Kenyah-Badeng. Chapter 5 focuses on the livelihood strategy in which family network is important as the platform for pooling resources. Departing from forced displacement, this chapter illustrates the emergence of coping reaction amongst the settlers by analyzing the family network discovered within the households interviewed in this research. Chapter 6 highlights the changing livelihood of the settlers highlighting the significant of wage employment where remittance is crucial to support their family who are living at the resettlement. The current perspective of settlers towards education and their willingness to invest into their children’s education is also discussed in this chapter. Chapter 7 summarizes the research findings and concludes the research.


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