Hornbill Unleashed

July 9, 2010

Penan rape report: ‘NGOs have an open agenda’



The Penan Support Group (PSG) – a coalition of 36 NGOs – expects to come under fire from Sarawak officials for its exposé on loggers’ sexual attacks against Penan women and girls.

Its report, released in Parliament yesterday, was based on a fact-finding mission to Baram after the police reneged on a promise to investigate the sexual attacks, citing a lack of funds.

The PSG also highlighted the failure of authorities to respond to the shocking findings of a national ministerial task force.

In an interview, Sarawak land rights activist Muhin Urip answered the claim that the NGOs have a private motive for their revelations.

Malaysiakini: How would you respond if state ministers repeat previous allegations that the NGOs have a ‘hidden agenda’ and are trying to damage Sarawak’s reputation, perhaps in order to get funding from foreign contributors?

Muhin Urip: The PSG has an open agenda, to bring out the voices of the oppressed, the abused. We are trying to allow the suppressed voices of the survivors of sexual exploitation to be heard. And the NGOs are proud of having this ‘hidden’ agenda.

But if, in the first place, governments and institutions exist to protect our rights and welfare and meet the needs of the people, then there would be no need for NGOs to exist, least of all to have any hidden agenda.

Suhakam and the police were asked to join the original mission, but turned us down with their respective excuses. The PSG has shown we had no intention to hide our mission. We did what we set out to do, as shown by our objectives in the report.

Why do you think police have neglected to investigate the sex crimes against the Penan?

We must look at the government actions and police inaction in a historical perspective. Firstly, Malaysians know very well that the police force is not an independent institution whose existence is solely to uphold law and order. Instead, it has become an institution that serves the ruling government to allow it to hang onto power.

NONEIn the context of the indigenous peoples’ struggle to defend their rights, the police have a history of being very biased.

Whenever police reports are made by rural communities, nothing happens. But when companies involved in disputes with communities make police reports, the police act immediately to take down blockades.

The Penan have made countless police reports against companies but there has never been any action to protect their rights. Instead, the Penan have been subjected to arrests, imprisonment and other forms of harassment – the total opposite of protection.

Over the decades, the Penan have come to consider the police untrustworthy. In this respect, I think the Penan are similar to many sectors of the Malaysian public in not trusting the police. But the Penan do not have much of a voice, compared to other Malaysians.

NONEThe PSG engaged with the police, to have a joint mission to get a better picture of how widespread sexual exploitation among the Penan is.

The public now knows that the police had no interest to discover the truth – they backed off, citing an untenable excuse of lack of funding. So it can only be expected that the police will not act, not even with the publication of this latest report, unless Malaysians speak up and hold the police accountable.

But it is not just police inaction that is troubling. It is most disturbing when the police, our supposed protectors, collaborate in trying to cover up the hideous crime of rape, as told to the fact-finding mission by villagers. The police, accompanied by an alleged perpetrator visited their village in Middle Baram.

They were looking for a rape survivor who had lodged a report with Bukit Aman. Another rape survivor ‘Bibi’ had already been pressured to retract her statement.

A past response from the state authorities was to say Penan rape survivors are “good story-tellers”. How would you respond to any claim that the only evidence is oral reports given to the PSG?

For the Sarawak government not to deny or dismiss this report would be original, and therefore unimaginable. They will do all that and more. Even the report by the federal Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development was dismissed. We know that several Suhakam reports on the rights of indigenous people were also ignored. There is a pattern of denial in the state government.

NONEThe PSG is opening up our report not only to share our findings, but also to expose our mission to public scrutiny.

The government can deny the findings all they want, but the federal and Sarawak governments will have to be responsible to Malaysians and the international community for their continuing inaction.

This report is just another small way for the PSG to support the people by bringing out the voices of the Penan girls and women.

Has the PSG called for an end to logging activities in the Baram areas where the alleged sexual abuse and loss of land rights is taking place?

I think the voices of the many affected middle and upper Baram Penan have been consistent since the 1980s – they have called for a halt to all logging activities on their native customary rights lands.

NONEThe Penan are not after the halt of all logging but just those on their lands. The loggers, on the other hand, are after the trees on all Sarawakians’ land.

The Penans’ legitimate and peaceful voice has been consistently ignored, and they have been insulted by the Sarawak government.

Meanwhile, the logging companies continue their government-sanctioned disregard for human decency, as they destroy the lives of Sarawakians. So the call by the Penan to halt logging is a call to all Sarawakians, Malaysians and all human rights defenders to support the people’s rights.

What terms of reference would you propose for a royal commission into the land rights of indigenous people, as the PSG report has recommended?

A royal commission would be the most appropriate mechanism to get to the root of the whole issue of land rights of Sarawak indigenous people. Land rights cannot be seen in isolation from the wider social, political, economic development and environmental factors.

In addition, it cannot be separated from the key issues of good governance, transparency and accountability. Logging, mono-crop plantations and mega-dam projects are symptoms of the wanton disregard for the rights of Sarawak’s indigenous people.


  1. I agree that the NGOs had an agenda. It is to protect a helpless people who are already marginalized by the government and now they cannot even protect their women and girls from marauding timbermen who rape them, protected by none other than the state government and the police. The rest of the world should know what is happening in Sarawak and I hope the NGOs will pursue this relentlessly.

    Comment by f'd'bn — July 11, 2010 @ 8:58 AM | Reply

    • The world knows how BN people screwed up the state. They knew a long time ago. In 1992, HRW, published “A Case Study of Malaysia”. Here’s a short excerpts:

      “…Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud, who calls anti-logging activists Malaysia’s “number one traitors”, directly controls 10 percent of Sarawak’s logging concessions. He distributes logging licenses, like political favors, at his discretion. Taib’s relatives and political allies are said to hold around 1.6 million hectares, roughly one third of Sarawak’s timber concessions.[87]

      Years of unaccountability have yielded a situation in which those who supposedly protect the environment are also the ones who profit most from its exploitation. The situation is epitomized by Sarawak Minister for the Environment and Tourism, Datuk James Wong, saying: “We get too much rain in Sarawak. It stops me from playing golf.[85] Wong, an outspoken proponent of logging, owns 300,000 hectares of forest concessions, and the Limbang Trading Company, one of the nation’s largest timber companies. In his own words, Alogging is my bread and butter.[86]…” – Indivisible Rights, A Case Study, Malaysia, HRW (1992)

      That’s almost a decade ago, 1992. The publication must have taken a couple of years to research and produce.

      If we didn’t have a fascist government, but an open print and other media so people can learn, know, do some bizness and interact, we’d be a lot better than South Korea.

      Comment by Watcha — July 11, 2010 @ 11:58 AM | Reply

  2. Rosmah Mansor ? The first lady of malaysia ?

    Briefed by the national ministerial task force but she has chosen to be silent as well !



    TETAPI , Girls and Women got raped and abused in her own country, she turned deaf and dumb and blind !

    Shame Malaysia and its rakyat in the eyes of the world !

    Comment by Jasmine Sarawak — July 9, 2010 @ 3:37 PM | Reply

  3. Jabu is a very worried guy. This guy isn’t do his work. That’s why he’s always melenting. He’s incharge of agriculture matters 4 S’wak, what dasar has he on agriculture for S’wak, Nothing. He rompak NCR land from our Iban n start Salcra to cheat the Ibans. Earning divden for RM200-RM500 per year only after 9 years. What can the Ibans eat out of that amount. He built multi-storeys Salcra HQ in Kota Samarahan out of the rakyat money. His family has a monopoly supplying fertilizer to Salcra plantation all over Sarawak. Is this so call a rakyat leader? ur cock. What’s Jabu talking about modern agriculture when all the Farmers Training Centre in Sarawak are closed. Jabu is talking his cock n shit about modern agriculture. Yet, u can see here and there in our Iban longhouses there ploughing machine left idle unused. Some of the trashing machines in longhouses are not serviceable. All these machines are just being supplied there to earn commision from the supplier. I recall the padi planting scheme which was RM2565.00 per hectar was not disimbursed properly. The padi planters were cheated. Some only got paid RM500-RM700 per hectar. Where are the balance of the money gone? Jabu is responsible for all these anomalies. MACC must investigate.

    Comment by Minda Mandol — July 9, 2010 @ 2:13 PM | Reply

  4. The NGOs are just responding to the inaction of the police and government over the allegation or rapes, assault and forced imprisonment committed by logging and plantation companies employees on the helpless and timid Penans.The NGOs were undertaking a risky task for no benefits at all. Rosmah Mansor had been briefed by the national ministerial task force but she has chosen to be silent as well. Every goons and morons in BN are playing deaf and dumb.

    Comment by Irene Kana — July 9, 2010 @ 1:31 PM | Reply

  5. Thank you, the Penan Support Group (PSG), for doing the right things and right the wrongs.

    The voice of the oppressed must be heard loud and clear.

    Justice must prevailed for the righteous and wicked.

    God bless the Penans !

    Comment by PH Chin — July 9, 2010 @ 12:36 PM | Reply

  6. I say, this Jabu is already panicky! Answer with real good grounds ler! Since when has politics been banned? WERE it so, that the report might be associated with political aims of restoring the dignity of the Penans then Jabu must have mixed his agricultural training notes with some really bad belacan and produce belacan politics!

    I have a suspicion this Jabu never really won the election against Ningkan in Betong now that Sarawakians are witnessing really what kind of politikus he is. You now know how Malaysian election works! During his time it must have been very very very bad, argh! Ho?

    Gee, how can Jabu keep his head up high like that one?! He never tires in head hunting, his own people? Better call his OCPD of Brickfields friend, ler!

    Comment by Watcha — July 9, 2010 @ 12:23 PM | Reply

  7. Opo Jengeto would be angry with this.

    Comment by Why I Sing The Blues — July 9, 2010 @ 10:15 AM | Reply

  8. Ngos agenda ? Political agenda ?

    Jabu has to be reminded that the National Taskforce Report released in the year 2008 is lead by the Ministry of Women and Family Dev !

    And the taskforce had representatives from the Police force !

    What is the agenda behind all the DENIALS ?

    Comment by Jasmine Sarawak — July 9, 2010 @ 9:11 AM | Reply

  9. […] Penan rape report: ‘NGOs have an open agenda’ […]

    Pingback by Penan rape report propose Royal Commission to investigate crimes against Penans! « Sarawak Indigenous Community News — July 9, 2010 @ 3:18 AM | Reply

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