Hornbill Unleashed

July 25, 2010

Penans bite the bitter pill


By Joseph Sipalan

Multi-million ringgit promises didn’t cut it for the Penans, for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak failed to live up to the hype of his much-touted maiden prime ministerial visit to Ulu Baram yesterday.

It was reported that some 2,000 people from the Penan, Kayan, Saban and Kenyah tribes spent four hours at the event – some walking two days just to attend – after word spread about Najib’s pledge of more than RM100 million to complete various projects in the area.

Despite the supposed aim of the visit to help the premier see first-hand the problems faced by the Penans and other tribes living in the area, it ended up being more of a public relations exercise as community leaders did not even get the chance to come close to Najib, let alone have a meeting.

Instead, he went on to pledge over RM100 million to complete the Beluru-Lapok road which connects Miri, the closest major town located north-west of the area, to the Baram district located in the state’s interior.

AFP reported that another RM6 million was promised for a mini hydro-electric dam for Long Banga, where the event was held, another million ringgit to link the village to the nearest airport and RM500,000 for a mobile medical clinic.

‘Najib failed to see past the money’

But community leaders felt that Najib and his administration failed to see past the money and understand what was most important to them.

Long Lamai village chief Wilson Belare said they were hopeful that Najib would at least discuss with them their problems, which they highlighted in a document handed over to Sarawak deputy state secretary Ose Murang on July 19.

The document focused on their long-standing problem with native customary rights (NCR) land, and also included education, safety and basic infrastructure such as roads and water.

Wilson said all they caught from Najib’s speech was a general promise to look into road and electricity problems facing villages in Long Banga, but nothing on Long Lamai.

NONE“I don’t really know what happened to the documents, because the PM did not mention any of our requests in his speech… probably, he didn’t receive it from Ose Murang,” he said.

In another letter dated July 22 and signed by Penan penghulu (chieftan) James Lalo, Wilson and five other village heads, the community urged Najib and his government to recognise that respect for their way of life trumped any promise of large-scale projects.

Despite the common use of Penan names for many rivers, mountains and geographical formations in government maps, their rights as indigenous people have yet to be recognised, they said.

The community leaders went as far as to say that development without consultation “brings problems, not solutions”.

“The area where we make our living has been licensed to timber loggers and plantation estates, and this has forced us to change our lifestyle. We are now facing all kinds of obstacles and problems in adapting to this situation,” the letter stated.

Children sexually harassed

The community leaders are also rankled by government authorities who often overlooked their opinions, requests and needs in whatever development plan that was put forward.

“The schools are built in other village settlements that are distant from ours. This has caused all kinds of problems, such as our children’s absenteeism from schools that are too far away.

“Sexual harassment also happens to our children on their way to school, which causes them to refuse to go to school.”

The letter also criticised the non-action by authorities despite evidence of sexual abuse by timber workers against Penan women in a September 2009 report by a national-level action committee under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry.

At the same time, the community leaders stressed that the government’s strategy of deploying a mobile national registration department unit to register Malaysians in Ulu Baram has failed as the unit only visits easily accessible areas and does not go beyond that.

The community leaders urged Najib to form an action committee to “identify the problems and obstacles” faced by the Penans and to take steps to solve the problems “directly with us”.

“Members of this action committee must include government personnel and the Penan communities to ensure that all planning is suited to our needs, intentions and aspirations,” the letter said.



    Comment by anak Ulu Baram... — August 10, 2010 @ 3:38 PM | Reply

  2. Najib visit to ulu Baram had not please everybody because the promised for more projects is actually to benefit Taib cronies and those BN ministers.Common people will only become cheap lab our if the projects are ever implemented.

    Comment by Anak Baram — July 27, 2010 @ 5:23 PM | Reply

    • yes…only benefits Taib’s cronies and the illegal Indonesian….. Kenyah of Long Bangga are mostly Indonesian…born in Indonesia…101% Indonesian who just migrated to Long Bangga just recently…..are now considered BUMIPUTRA?

      I am original born in Malaysia in Ulu Baram…to a 4th generation Chinese father and a BUMIPUTRA mothers….and I am considered NON BUMI….where as this Indonesian who just move to Malaysia recent are considered BUMIPUTRA!

      BTW, my great grand mother is Kenyah+Kayan! and I married to Org Ulu…..still my children were still considered NON BUMI…..!

      Can someone from the Home Ministry or JPN clarify?

      Comment by anak Ulu Baram... — July 29, 2010 @ 1:37 PM | Reply

  3. “As announced by PM/CM…state govt will carry out block perimeter survey of the NCR of “MATURED ARED”!

    “”exercise involved identifying considred “MATURED FOR DEVELOPMENT”

    Matured area….what he meant? Matured area…with matured trees so that they can issue the concession/area to be logged?

    Matured for development… after been identified as mature NCR Land area….be away to Our NCR land be block survey and be given away to be developer?

    So fellow Sarawakian…..do you catch it. They are not giving the NCR Land to us but robbing it from us!!!!

    Just another political gimmick of the PM….

    Comment by anak Penan — July 27, 2010 @ 1:05 PM | Reply

    • Too late.Almost all NCR land had been given to big companies for oil palm plantations and logging. The natives are not so stupid to believe this sweet promise.We know state election is drawing nearer.

      Comment by Anak Baram — July 27, 2010 @ 5:29 PM | Reply

      • what left of Baram jungle is Mulu National Park & Tamabu mountain Range(Pulung Tau Natioanal Park) and along the Indonesian Boarder! The rest…all given away for logging or oil palm!

        Comment by anak Ulu Baram... — August 10, 2010 @ 3:48 PM | Reply

  4. Were they all on a secret mission knowingly the location is best without the media people. However have you ever imagined whether he put on extra diapers during the flights? Ask, whether would he like to make a return trip to ensure the project he promised taken off the ground. If BN has the heart for these poor people the government would have had a road reaching by now? To arrive at the approximate distant just do this simple calculation: A 100m a day X the numbers of years BN rules. Please submit whatever the proposals to these innocent citizens in black and white, in any language, to evident the sincere contract.

    Comment by Miaowkia — July 25, 2010 @ 9:32 PM | Reply

  5. Our Dayak Orang Ulu YB’s or high ranking officers (asst only) are ‘only seen but not heard’ by the BN, yesterday, today and also tomorrow. We may write tons of letters…JANGAN HARAP DILAYAN!

    The only piece of paper that makes a difference is the ballot paper and who you vote. Vote for change!

    Comment by batulawi — July 25, 2010 @ 8:03 PM | Reply

    • YES! Please pass this message to each and every Sarawakian esp those in the interiors – take care of that ballot paper with your dear heart. It will change your world and that of your children’s!

      What interests me is and I find it baffling, what was Najib and his fatso doing in Sarawak(again!) when no one’s at home? Were they there to let out the termites?

      Comment by Jong — July 25, 2010 @ 9:38 PM | Reply

  6. “Penan, Kayan, Saban and Kenyah tribes spent four hours at the event – some walking two days just to attend – after word spread about Najib’s pledge of more than RM100 million to complete various projects in the area.”

    Played out again!!!
    Prime Minister Najib wasn’t coming to pledge more money or more projects this time around. He was in no mood to meet the natives, discuss or promise anything after his candidate Robert Lau was rejected by Sibuans in April By-E. Arhhh, that’s Najib and his “all talk, all cock”! He didn’t even honor his pledge of RM5million for Rejang Park flood relief project!

    This time he had other issues. It’s obvious, his visit was timed to coincide with CM’s absence. Yeah, Taib had to attend to his ‘big moment’ in Oxford.

    Anyway, the Balak Baron knows too well Najib and UMNO just can’t wait to replace him and his days are numbered. He knows what’s coming, so he just couldn’t care less. It’s not that difficult for a thief to know what the other thief is thinking next, no?

    Comment by Jong — July 25, 2010 @ 11:14 AM | Reply

  7. Najib=EPIC FAIL!

    Comment by jjj — July 25, 2010 @ 1:56 AM | Reply

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