A nomadic Penan travelled all the way from the Sarawak interior to Pulau Jerejak to highlight the community’s plight at the bi-annual Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) conference.
Sagong Nyipa, from Layun in Tutoh, shared his experiences with the over 100 environmental activists from 49 countries who were attending the two-day conference recently.
“Life used to be simple. We live in small groups and move around to control how much food we take from the forest.
“Now, it is difficult to hunt and find plants for medicine as the forests are getting smaller and smaller,” said Sagong, who is the first person from his village to travel outside Sarawak.
The soft-spoken father of four said the indigenous communities were largely affected by timber concessions and hydro power projects as they relied on the forest for all their needs.
“We have tried many ways of highlighting our problems – petitions, protests – but so far, it has not been successful.
“This is why we have no other alternative but to turn to Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) and outside groups,” Sagong said.
He went through a day’s journey by truck, two boats and a taxi to get to the Miri airport where he took his first ever flight.
Sarawak SAM coordinator Jok Jau Evong, who helped translate for Sagong, said he hoped international groups would help put pressure on state authorities to include the Penan in concession decisions.
“Lawyers of the Penan tribe have almost 200 court cases against various parties but every time we win a case, it is appealed to a higher court.
“It has been a long struggle that seems never-ending,” Jok said.
In recent years, the Penan community has received significant media attention, most notably for claims of rape and sexual abuse on Penan women and girls allegedly committed by employees of logging companies in 2008. – Star