Hornbill Unleashed

November 5, 2009

Police under fire for inertia over Penan rape

By Keruah Usit @ Malaysiakini

The national task force report on rape and sexual abuse of Penan girls in Baram was released on September 8. The report by the


Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development, was compiled by a high-level task force, comprising government officials, a police representative and women’s groups.

However, nearly two months later, no arrests have been made, despite continuing pressure from civil society and the international community. The police have said they have no leads and that the NGOs supporting the Penan have refused to co-operate with them.

According to the Borneo Post, a newspaper owned by a local logging company, Mohd Bakri Mohd Zinin, head of the national Criminal Investigation Department (CID), complained on October 22 that the police could not gather enough evidence.

“The police are looking for evidence to solve the cases, but there (has) been no co-operation from the victims, and there are also no witnesses. The investigations will take time to be completed,” the CID Director said.

“The people cannot really blame us for that, because if you really want the cases to be completed then give us information, even the NGOs who initially brought this issue to the public have given us zero co-operation,” he claimed.

The Penan Support Group (PSG), a civil society network including the Bar Council, said it viewed the government and police response to the task force report with “grave disappointment”. The PSGcriticised the police representative on the Ministry’s taskforce for inaction.

“The police representative on the task force completely failed to raise matters concerning the police. There was no indication in the report to demonstrate that police involvement in the task force would lead to police action against perpetrators,” the PSG said in a statement.

“After the report went public, the Bukit Aman police top brass has continued to insist on ‘more information’, as if criminal investigation is the domain of NGOs. The police have reneged on their earlier commitment to mount a joint Bukit Aman-NGO investigation team to interview victims, saying the police have insufficient funding for a joint mission.”

The remarks stem from a promise made by Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Musa Hassan last January, to members of the PSG, that the Bukit Aman national police would work together with the NGOs to locate alleged sexual abuse victims in their villages, and interview the victims to collect evidence.

The IGP accepted this arrangement as necessary, because the Penan have little faith in Sarawak police, who are seen as partial to the logging companies. The police have demolished Penan logging blockades in middle Baram as recently as in September.

Furthermore, many reports to the Sarawak police regarding alleged sexual assault of local girls by logging workers have been made since 1994, but with little result. The first report in 1994 was of a rape of a 12-year-old girl from Long Mobui by a logging worker. Local communities say the Sarawak police have declined, on several occasions, to accept reports on rapes and other crimes involving logging workers in Baram.

Different ethnic groups reported attacks

CID Director Bakri admitted that the police has investigated 14 cases of sexual assault in nine settlements in Ulu Baram, but only one suspect has been charged in court. Bakri blamed the dismal prosecution rate on insufficient evidence and the absence of witnesses.

He said different ethnic groups in Baram had reported attacks. Only four of these 14 cases involved Penan girls.

NONEA source familiar with the police investigations toldMalaysiakini that most of the alleged victims were under-aged. Among the reported victims were two Kenyah girls, aged 8 and 14 respectively, a Malay girl of 17, a Kayan girl of 10, three Iban girls, aged 12,14 and 16, a Kelabit girl aged 15, a Berawan girl and a Penan girl, both aged 14.

The ages of the other three Penan girls mentioned by Bakri are unknown. It is also unclear whether all the rapes involved logging workers, and whether the victims’ ages provided were at the time of the police report, or at the earlier time of the alleged crime.

Bakri went on to say that a police task force comprising Bukit Aman and Sarawak officers had been working on the alleged rape of Penan girls by logging workers “since January”. The mainstream media reports of the rapes appeared last October.

The PSG claims it has provided full co-operation with the police. PSG representatives have attended three meetings with the police and have urged a joint police-NGO probe, as the IGP had promised.

However, the police refused to participate in a joint police-NGO investigation, because the police had only a RM100,000 budget to support the police investigating team, and could not support any NGO members of the mission.

“It was the IGP who sought assistance from the NGOs and pledged full support to the joint investigation,” a PSG source told Malaysiakini. The source said the NGOs had written repeatedly to Bukit Aman for a timetable for the joint investigation, but each reply had come back a month later, on average.

“The police even wanted to use the logging companies’ vehicles and drivers,” the PSG source said in disbelief.

The most recent reply from the police was an instruction for all the rape victims to converge on the Long Lama police station for interviews on a given date, instead of the police going to visit the victims in their remote home communities.

Sarawak’s response: All these reports not true

According to the Eastern Times, a Sarawak newspaper, Sarawak Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department, Daud Abdul Rahman said recently that he was “not interested” in “unsubstantiated reports” of rape of rural girls by loggers.

“To me, all these reports are not true. They did not happen,” Daud was quoted as saying. “If (they) are true, there should be evidence.”

Sarawak police announced last year that there was no evidence of sexual abuse of schoolgirls, following police interviews of logging camp workers and schoolteachers in Baram. There has been no further update of rape investigations by local police.

Sarawak police face further criticism for saying that they believe a police report made in Long Lama on September 28 by “Bibi”, an alleged Penan rape victim. In the Long Lama report, “Bibi” said she had been conned into making her earlier rape report to the ministerial task force in Kuala Lumpur. Police said it would charge “Bibi” if the police found that she had made a “false report”.


In response, Women, Family and Development Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil reiterated in Parliament that the rapes had indeed taken place.

Women NGOs have insisted angrily that the Long Lama report was untrue and “Bibi’s” testimony to them had been completely voluntary.

“Bibi’s” report was made in Long Lama in the presence of “Bibi’s” self-proclaimed “husband”, Ah Heng(left). “Bibi” had alleged Ah Heng had raped her and forced her to bear children. PSG members say the Long Lama police report was made under intimidation.

“The police and federal government departments and agencies must prove, through concrete actions, to be independent entities serving the Penan and other indigenous communities as the rakyat, and not political masters and logging or plantation companies,” the PSG pointed out.

Meanwhile, schoolgirls, from Penan and other ethnic groups, continue to go to school, and remain at risk from sexual predators in Baram.



  1. How about the illegal logging in Long Lellang? Police report been made in Long Lama nearly 3 months already and to date nothing happen….

    Shin Yang I should says employ nearly 80% illegal Indonesian in the camps…. so what the Police, Immigration and Forestry dept doing?

    The Police and SFC rep share dining tables with this illegal and they dont catch them?

    sure la….. if people talk about palestine or padang…. ya…. sure we can gives millions to them….

    Comment by falcon — November 13, 2009 @ 7:29 PM | Reply

  2. I will ask a very, very, VERY basic question that anyone with a half brain will be able to answer:

    Why would the Penan girls lied?

    They are poor. They lived off the resources of the forest. They barely have any education. In fact, they don’t even have excess to the MOST basic of basic utilities and facilities.

    So, now then, why would they lied? What do they stand to gain?

    It’s not like they ask for great compensations. It’s not like they ask for ANYTHING!

    What did they ask for? For the rapist to be in JAIL! and what do the police task force says?

    “To me, all these reports are not true. They did not happen,” Daud was quoted as saying. “If (they) are true, there should be evidence.”

    1Malaysia? People Now? Malaysia Boleh!

    Comment by stormsea7 — November 7, 2009 @ 4:11 PM | Reply

  3. RM100,000..not enough budget????….so when will it enough? I learned that Malaysian donated some amount (thousands) of money for those in Palestine…, Padang, Philippine etc around the world…but for Penan case in at Sarawak they can’t afford it?

    The Malay saying said: Kera (monyet) di hutan disusukan, anak dipangkuan mati kelaparan!!

    My message is pls, take a serious afford to settle this issues..go all out for it!! You said not enough evidence? so who do you waiting for to feed you with the evidence? FBI? CIA? MOSSSAD?..KGB?..

    Comment by Penan2020 — November 6, 2009 @ 12:09 AM | Reply

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