Ang Ngan Toh
The Sarawak government forced more than 1,000 semi-nomadic Penans out of their homes in the rainforest and dumped them in a vast oil palm plantation, a London-based non-governmental organisation, Survival International (SI), says.
The Penans refused to move, but later had no choice as they have to give way to work on the Murum dam project, SI director Stephen Corry said today.
The Murum dam, slated to come on stream next year, is the first in a series of 12 new hydroelectric dams that will flood the villages of the Penan and other indigenous communities.
The 12 dams will facilitate the development of the ‘Sarawak corridor of renewable energy’ (Score), which will involve oil, timber, aluminium and palm oil enterprises and will further threaten the land of Sarawak’s tribal people.
Corry said in a statement that the Penans had told the government that if they had to leave, they wanted to move to another part of their ancestral land.
He said the government accepted the suggestion, but then sold their land to a Malaysian company, Shin Yang, which is clearing thousands of acres of forests and planting the area with oil palm.
This has made survival extremely difficult for the Penans, who rely on the forest in which they hunt for food and for their wild fruits and plants as well.
Land sold for oil palm plantation
Corry said Shin Yang entered the area illegally, without the Penans’ consent.
“Not only is the Sarawak government forcing more than 1,000 people from the forests they have lived in for generations, it also sold off the area it promised for their new home, and is allowing it to be cleared for oil palm plantations,” he said.
“It looks like the Sarawak government won’t be satisfied until the Penans are reduced to utter poverty and destitution.”
Batu Lintang state assemblyperson See Chee How said he would raise the issues concerning the Penans in the coming sitting of the Sarawak state assembly.
He wants the Sarawak government and its agencies to explain what they were doing about the federal government’s national task force report released in September 2009 on the sexual attackson Penang women and girls.
The ministry set up a task force to investigate series of sexual abuse cases against Penan women and schoolgirls by timber workers in the interior district of Baram.
The task force, in its report made public, cited a number of cases of sexual abuse against the Penans women and girls by the timber workers.
Penans girl relying on vehicles to transport them to and from schools have also become easy targets for sexual abuse by timber workers.
Despite these disclosures, none of the culprits was brought to justice, while Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu dismissed the report, saying the Penans were “good story tellers“