Hornbill Unleashed

July 16, 2010

Penan Support Group: Govt denials “appalling”

By Penan Support Group

THE Penan Support Group (PSG) is appalled that Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Heng Seai Kie has refuted the findings in the PSG’s mission report uncovering more cases of rape and sexual exploitation among the Penan. Heng cited minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s “fact-finding mission” on 13 July to the Baram region and the lack of police reports as proof.

We find this denial and misinformation problematic for several reasons. First, the minister’s visit was not a “fact-finding mission” to investigate the allegations of new rape cases, but to merely “have a feel of the place”, to quote a report in The Star.

Second, the minister did not meet any of the members from the Penan communities cited in the PSG report. She spent only one hour on her walkabout of Batu Bungan, an accessible village near the prime tourist spot of Mulu National Park. This is nowhere near any of the three remote villages the PSG mission members visited during their investigation.

The deputy minister’s denial joins a chorus of similarly outrageous statements made by various officials since the PSG report was released. These include Sarawak Land Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr James Masing, who threatened rape victims with arrest if they refused to cooperate.

The reasons for the lack of police reports in this matter are thoroughly documented in the PSG report. Not least of these reasons is the Penan’s deep mistrust of state authorities due to years of poor response to grievances related to land rights, poverty, and access to basic services.

Penan woman with her childWe reiterate that it is precisely these denials that prompted the PSG fact-finding mission to document and investigate the wider context to the sexual abuse and exploitation of Penan women and children. To fixate on individual perpetrators and criminal investigations alone will not stop the sexual violence from recurring if the systematic exploitation of the Penan persists.

Development policies which have allowed the encroachment of indigenous peoples’ lands and destroyed their livelihoods and culture have led to dependency, impoverishment and the disempowerment of many Penan. This is the wider context of the sexual violence and exploitation being raised. In areas where the state has given logging concessions to logging companies, the power wielded by these companies over the indigenous peoples in these areas is immense.

For instance, many Penan children are dependent on logging companies for transport to school because the state has failed to provide schools closer to these communities or adequate transportation to the nearest schools. This makes the children even more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Until the state takes serious steps to reassess its development policies and ensure the people’s rights, welfare and protection, this type of violence will continue.

Considering these facts, we urge the prime minister, when he visits the Baram region next week, to visit communities working with both the state and independent groups such as the PSG to receive a holistic picture. We recognise that visits to the Sarawak interior takes weeks to prepare, and hence are concerned that time constraints will limit the opportunities for engagement with as many people as possible.

Penan Support Group

Related Articles : Shahrizat to reach out to Penans


  1. Beware. The penans will be the downfall of Taib Mahmud. Najib is on the move to make sure everything is according to plan.

    Comment by myrayza — July 17, 2010 @ 1:10 PM | Reply

  2. The government hates Natives. The government is basically a bunch of “white people.” I don’t mean to denigrate (hah!) caucasians, but the big-ass capos of Malaysia, whether they personally have brown skin or yellow skin regard themselves as a race apart, Übermenschen, who are better in all respects than poor people and who regard the privilege of spitting on them—as well as robbing them—their holy right, whatever their idiot, juryrigged justification is. In other words, to adapt a phrase “Arrogant is the new white.” When has a minister of Malay origin ever looked like a Malay? Or a Dayak minister like a Dayak? Can Sharizat cook? The Malay ladies I know pride themselves on their mastery of Malay cuisine. She’s a Malay princess; commoners stink and she must keep her distance otherwise she’ll faint, poor dear. Besides, she can’t get anywhere near something that might have been in touch with pork. Oh the poor Dayaks. Their best source of animal protein will condemn them to hell. In contrast, my experience of Dayak life is sitting on the floor-slats wearing shorts, sharing plain food, drinking tuak and enjoying much jollity, with not a trace of one-upmanship nearby. In this egalitarian society, you have fun *together*. When are the Semenanjung uppa-crust Malays EVER going to get it into their heads that Dayaks value another person for what he/she can DO, not for some stupid title he/she was born with. Malays think Allah chose them to be Superior People. Dayaks think that attitude stinks.

    Comment by 'Nother Fellow — July 16, 2010 @ 9:18 PM | Reply

    • Can Shahrizat cook? Surely can. That’s not a fair question. She might even be a hot cook. She must know how to cook Bryani rice.

      Have to say, I’d drop everything if I smell Bryani rice!

      Comment by Watcha — July 17, 2010 @ 6:50 PM | Reply

    • Excuse me, since when this mamak woman became a ‘Malay princess’? Did I read it right? ..since when? And btw Watcha, you may need to wait your turn, it’s Taib she has her focus on at the moment! She did on Paklah some years back when there was a ‘situation vacant’ once. HaHAha!!

      Comment by Jong — July 18, 2010 @ 4:40 PM | Reply

  3. I can’t help but to notice that the federal ministers, Sharizat and her deputy cannot even distinguish between Mulu and Ulu Baram when talking about the visited place? Can’t even get the place right and that makes what Sharizat said real empty indeed. But it is not what she was quoted as having said in the star but it is the fact that since her ministry’s release of the report, there has been nothing concrete done at all. Lack of action speaks louder again. So, Sharizat may be trying to fool the urbanites who read the star, she certainly does not fool the Penan and certainly not those who care to know through various alternative sources. Typical of BN ministers but this one even worst, being rejected by voters and then brought in through the back door, via the senate. I salute the voters who voted her out, obvious that she was of the rejected quality but outrages that Malaysians in general have her as a minister. So ultimately, Najib’s 1Malaysia is only real in Najib’s cabinet – 1 group of pathetics as ministers.

    Comment by ah pek — July 16, 2010 @ 6:48 PM | Reply

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