A five-day journey from Long Sa’at in interior Ulu Baram came to nought yesterday when all Barisan Nasional elected leaders spurned a 13-member Penan delegation who came to see them to present the community’s development plan.
All the 71 lawmakers including Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and his deputy Alfred Jabu Numpang knew the Penans were coming.
In fact, they along with journalists had early yesterday morning received an invitation to attend the Penan community’s development briefing at 12.30pm at the media conference room in the State Legislative Assembly.
But neither Taib nor his 56 elected representatives turned up.
Only the 15 opposition assemblymen from DAP and PKR were present to hear their proposal on how the community could protect their rights, their adat (culture), manage their forests and develop their economy.
A disappointed Siang Ngadau, a spokesman for the group, said: “We are deeply disappointed. They (BN lawmakers) do not care about our plight.
“It is not easy for us to come here. It took us five days to reach Kuching depending on the availability of transport. Firstly, we have to walk through jungle tracks for three hours, use longboats for another three hours, riding on four-wheeled drive for eight hours before we can reach the nearest town.
“From Marudi and Miri, we have to fly to Kuching.”
When asked why they did not approach their assemblyman Dennis Ngau (Telang Usan), Siang said that Ngau knew of their plan, but was not interested in their welfare.
“If the BN assemblymen and the authorities can help us we will not come to Kuching to present our case.
“But they just don’t care about our plight,” Siang added.
Rude BN reps
Explaining the purpose of their visit, Siang said it was to share with all the elected representatives and journalists their proposal through their Penan Peace Park project to develop the community.
“The Penans from 18 Penan villages have since 2009 been discussing how they can uphold and protect their rights and adat, preserve their history, look after their forests, rivers and environment and to develop their economy.
“Thus the idea of Penan Peace Park came into being. We are worried that our survival and our livelihood will be affected once the Baram dam is constructed,” said Siang, pointing out that through this Penan Peace Park a number of projects would be launched not only to ensure their survival but also to carry out all those objectives.
Meanwhile, Sarawak opposition leader Wong Ho Leng pledged DAP’s support for the Penan Peace Park.
Praising them for their bold peace park project, Wong, who is also the Bukit Assek assemblyman, said that it was to preserve their community, their culture and forest resources.
“For all these reasons, DAP will extend its support to and to fight for the Penan cause.
“We cannot allow the Penans to be continually marginalised by the Barisan Nasional,” he said.
Wong also voiced his “disgust” at the BN leaders’ lack of courtesy.
“I must express my disgust at the absence of BN elected representatives at the briefing.
“Although every assemblyman and assemblywoman from BN, DAP and PKR were given an invitation letter to come, not a single minister, assistant minister or assemblyman from BN appeared here.
“I think the Penan community has every right to know the reason for the lack of concern on the part of BN on the plight of the Penan people,” said Wong, who is also state DAP chairman.
‘Nothing wrong in listening’
Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian also took the BN leadership to task.
“I don’t see why the BN elected representatives were not present. There is nothing wrong in listening to the whole thing.
“The important thing is that we work for everybody and for the good of the rakyat irrespective of their political differences.
“Don’t say that because they are with the opposition, then you don’t support them. That is not good.
“As far as we are concerned, what they (Penans) presented today is very logical and reasonable.
“There is a need for it, and I hope the authorities and ministers would support their project,” said Bian, who is the Ba’Kelalan assemblyman.