The Sarawak state government is always ready to engage with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to discuss the Penan issue, Land Development Minister Datuk Seri Dr James Masing said.
He said the state government has been engaging with NGOs from all over the world, including the United Kingdom and the European Union, through discussions and site visits on how it handled the Penan people.
“We have nothing to hide and what we are doing now is for the good of the community,” he said on the sidelines of the Inaugural Oxford Global Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum here Tuesday.
Dr Masing said the state government never ran away from NGOs, but “protesting like yesterday was pathetic as we have engaged many times with NGOs on the issue of Penan.”
On Monday, a group called Survival International gathered in front of the building where the forum is being held to express their concern about the Penans.
He said there were 16,000 Penans, of which 99% had been settled and another 300 Penans were provided with areas where they could hunt.
Schools were built to provide education to the younger generation, he added.
“They can accuse us of not looking after them (Penan), but we are giving them options,” he said.
Dr Masing said he believed that the motive of the protest was more economic rather than environmental.
He said the protest might be influenced by commodity producers like soy bean and rapsead which compete with palm oil in the export market.