Hornbill Unleashed

November 19, 2009

Justice delayed, is justice denied – Mariam Mokhtar

Published here with kind permission of the author. This article first appeared in The Malaysian Insider on 15.11.2009

NOV 15 – Some of you might be forgiven if you missed the few inches of column in a national paper that screamed out for attention, “Investigations into sexual abuse of the Penans reach dead end”.

And if you hadn’t, I bet most of you shrugged your shoulders, flicked to another page and thought, “Huh. We knew that. We’ve always known that and why wait one year to be told that? Why waste taxpayers’ money on this investigation?”

So, should we be bothered? Should we care? Should we even be moved?

We, who read the papers in our cosy sitting rooms or in the air conditioned comfort of Starbuck’s, might think – “Who are the Penans anyway? They are only an obscure indigenous group living in the Sarawak jungles; who refuse to be tamed into submission; who reject all manner of coercion by the Sarawak government to live in a settlement; who decline to discard their way of life and traditions; who repel all advances for modernization and have to be forcibly dragged into the 21st century.”

One year ago, the rape of the Penan girls was highlighted by the Bruno-Manser Foundation, and picked up by various NGOs and reporters in Malaysia.

An investigation by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry managed to uncover the terrible extent of these rapes. Some of the senior civil servants were visibly moved when they took the statements of the victims.

On the other hand, the police have been unsuccessful in their own investigations, and to date, no one has been arrested, charged or prosecuted. Such is the magnitude of their detailed and broad investigations that it has prompted the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Ismail Omar, to issue a statement to say that the police considered the matter closed.

Maybe the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry could pass on some tips for successful police detective work and interrogation techniques.

But it is highly probably, as we are led to believe, that this Ministry was manipulated by the NGOs and the Penans. This Ministry was foolishly duped during the questioning. They wasted time by gathering reams of evidence and photographs, which apparently took several months to compile, complete with transcripts and detailed medical evidence, etcetera. How could they be naïve and fall prey to the histrionics of these deceiving girls? They then reported to the whole nation that the rapes did occur. All this has damaged public relations and dented Malaysia’s image around the world.

Naturally, the police “had done all they could”. What more could they do? They lacked evidence and cooperation from the alleged victims and from the NGOs.

As we are good and loyal Malaysians, we must believe our beloved police and political masters. The Sarawak jungles are vast and the police have limited resources. Petrol for the boats to go up river in search of these communities is in short supply. Sarawak is not good for much except for producing vast amounts of timber, petroleum and Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG).

And the timber companies, whose personnel are the alleged rapists, have even offered transport and other conveniences to the police. These are not the actions of a guilty party, are they? The Penans should not misconstrue the motives of the police when they are given assistance by the alleged conspirators, should they? After all, these companies should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, right? And naturally, the timber barons and political dynasties would have offered no resistance to the authorities in solving this problem.

It is imperative we believe the diktat when they say it is the fault of the Penans for disappearing and for the NGOs to be so uncooperative.

After all, didn’t one of the “victims” say she was forced into saying she was raped.  So, it must be true and this one statement should be enough to implicate the rest for being liars.

But then, one wonders what a few thousand ringgits can do to enhance one’s way of living (unlike in my home-state of Perak where a few million will suffice).

If waving the ‘carrot’ is not good enough, one only has to suggest that Sarawak is such a vast place that people can disappear without a trace.

Statements have been recorded, photographs taken and other evidence gathered. All of these will now be consigned to the bin.

It would be regrettable if the Penans lose complete interest in being integrated into mainstream society by our callous actions. Maybe the next time one of their own is violated, they might just take the law of the jungle into their own hands.

And that would be a shame for the Penans are a wonderful people with a rich culture and tradition and make up the rich fabric of what we call, Malaysia.

But sadly, if this were to happen, it is because we looked the other way and did not search our conscience hard and deep enough, preferring instead to do nothing.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

1 Comment »

  1. I know it’s a bit out of point but not everyone living in the Peninsula have luxurious and incredibly cozy lifestyle.

    I’m not sure how such perception are created. Maybe stories of politicians sudden enrichment or the great promises of the Capital propaganda have done so. But as a resident of Malaysia Peninsula, living the the so-called Capital of the country, Kuala Lumpur, I can quite assure, despite my inexperienced age, that the grand life you perceive here is not so grand.

    You might see many imported cars, great big cars. You might see big houses with huge land, costing sometimes millions. You might think the facilities are top-notch, with state-of-the-art technology everywhere you look. But do not be fooled.

    The classes of society here are strictly divided. The rich, the middle, and the poor are divided, albeit a small barrier like a road, still, it’s a huge wall. Of course, the standard of living here are obviously higher than that of East Malaysia. However, observe and study closely, and you will noticed it’s not all glamor.

    So, please, do not perceive us as all the same, the same entity, the same manner.

    The word “black sheep” came about for a reason. Although the number of “black sheep” may seem to be much more.

    Comment by stormsea7 — November 20, 2009 @ 11:10 PM | Reply


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