Good governance and human security in Malaysia: Sarawak’s hydroelectric conundrum

Brendan M. Howe, Nurliana Kamaruddin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Good governance is an essentially contested concept. In Asian countries, economic efficiency and macro-economic projects have predominantly been pursued with the aim of promoting national, aggregate measurements of development. Hydroelectric power generation projects have played a central role in the national planning of several regional states as part of an attempt to achieve these goals. Even by their own terms of reference, however, hydroelectric power projects have at most a mixed record of success, and are increasingly criticized with regard to their negative impact on the environment, and upon vulnerable groups. The government of Malaysia has embraced the “developmental state” model, and this is best illustrated by governance initiatives and resource exploitation in the East Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah and their respective “development corridors”. Sarawak’s Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) is the most visible sign of Malaysia’s macro-economic hydroelectric development focus, as Sabah’s corridor focuses on trade, investment, and tourism. This article takes a critical perspective towards good governance, emphasizing that it should function in the interests of all society, but in particular the most vulnerable. It therefore addresses the impact of Malaysian hydroelectric development policies on one of the most vulnerable sections of Malaysian society, the indigenous peoples of Sarawak. The findings cast doubt on the validity of continued prioritization of hydroelectric dam construction as a cornerstone of government energy and development policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-105
Number of pages25
JournalContemporary Southeast Asia
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute.


  • Governance
  • Human security
  • Hydroelectric dams
  • Malaysia
  • Sarawak SCORE


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