Hornbill Unleashed

October 25, 2012

The gov’t has rejected us, say Murum natives

Ahmad Fadli KC

It is a four-hour journey by 4WD from Sarawak’s gas and timber capital of Bintulu if one wants to head for the tropical rainforest of Murum in the interior of the Kapit division.

To spur development in Murum, the Sarawak government has approved logging licences, permitted palm oil plantations and is also building the Murum hydroelectric dam at a cost of RM3 billion.

The locality holds eight longhouse communities, accommodating some 1,400 Penan natives.

NONEForced to move out for logging and the dam project, they have blockaded the road leading to the dam construction site.

A team of Malaysiakini reporters visited Murum recently and interviewed some of the Penan.

One of them, Senang Kalang, 27, said the Penan have vowed to defend their homes and customary land.

“We were never afraid. It is nobler to die for the truth than to live like this,” Senang said.

He said the Sarawak government never consulted the natives about developing the area, and they were only approached by the developers long after the construction of the dam had started.

NONE“They asked us before whether we agreed (with the dam project). We said that we didn’t,” said Senang (left), who has camped at the blockade site since Sept 25.

The developer, Sarawak Energy Bhd, had earlier signed an agreement acknowledging the Penan as the customary owners of the land in the area and agreed to pay compensation for ground-breaking for the dam and for intrusion into their land.

However, the state government turned down the other demands of the Penan, which included compensation of RM500,000 for each family for the loss of their customary land.

Their other demands were 30,000 hectares of land for every village, 25 hectares for every farming family, education for their children, a community development fund and rights to their land that is not submerged by the dam waters.

NRD came in 2009, but still no MyKad

The problem has been worsened by the citizenship woes of the natives. According to the Hydroelectric Dam Project Social and Environmental Impact Assessment Report, only 60 percent of the Penan have birth certificates.

NONEIn addition, 80 percent of the same population do not have MyKad.

The report also states that 41 percent of those without MyKad had applied for this in 2009, but to no avail.

Senang said officers from the National Registration Department (NRD) visited the Long Luar longhouse where he lives and the residents put in their MyKad applications.

“They came to our longhouse to get our applications, but the MyKad are still not ready. They keep giving all kinds of excuses for this.

“We took our receipts (which serve as temporary MyKad) and they told us to wait. Then they told us that the MyKad are at the NRD’s Asap office. We went to Asap and they told us to wait – because the MyKad are in Bintulu,” he lamented.

Malaysiakini‘s checks also showed that the birth certificates of most of the Penan children state hat their citizenship “is yet to be determined”.

NONEAccording to Long Jaik longhouse chief Matu Tugang (right), the problem arose because many of their parents were also not recognised as citizens.

This makes it impossible for them to register for schooling, Matu said.

“We really want our children to go to school,” he said, saddened by the absence of schools in the vicinity of his longhouse.

Senang, who is a little better off because he has his MyKad, is remorseful of the way the government treats the native peoples of Sarawak.

“We used to support the government but now we don’t know who to choose.

“Who we will choose, we don’t know. We never rejected the government… it is the government that has rejected us,” he added.


  1. Stand up and stay united to fight with parang, spear and guns.

    Comment by Atok — October 26, 2012 @ 5:15 PM | Reply

  2. How many Penans have been issued with Mycards and how of them are registered voters? The BN government has been complacent and happy not to register the Penan kids and had rejected many of their applications as voters.

    Comment by Bidayuh Headmaster — October 25, 2012 @ 5:45 PM | Reply

  3. Wonder who is the good Story Teller here….the Punans or Akik james masing…?????

    S’wak minister draws flak over Penan rape
    Masing: Penan are very good storytellers
    by Keruah Usit, Malaysia Kini, Dec 9, 2009

    Sarawak Land Minister James Masing has come under fire for his scornful dismissal of claims that Penan girls and women have been sexually abused by employees of logging companies.

    In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, broadcast on Dec 7, Masing said: “I think this is where we get confused. I think… the Penan are a most interesting group of people and they operate on different social etiquette as us… a lot this sex by consensual sex.”

    BBC correspondent Angus Stickler then quoted Mary, a young Penan teenager, as saying that she had been dragged from her room, beaten unconscious and raped, after she had hitched a ride to school on a logging truck.

    A federal government task force had confirmed in a report on Sept 9 that girls as young as 10 had been raped by loggers. Like Mary, some have borne children as a result of rape.

    Masing, however, told the BBC: “They change their stories, and when they feel like it. That’s why I say Penan are very good storytellers.”

    His remark is typical of the Sarawak government response. The official line has been to deny the rape of Penan girls and women by loggers, and to smear the Penan as primitive and promiscuous liars, while declaring that logging is a form of development.

    The Sarawak government has asserted that logging brings roads, even if they are poorly maintained, to remote native Dayak communities.

    However, the same roads have led to numerous reports of sexual assault on local Dayak, including Penan, girls, by logging company drivers and employees.

    Masing’s slur of “changing stories” may be a reference to the police report lodged by a Penan rape survivor, ‘Bibi’, who withdraw her allegation.

    But the Penan Support Group (PSG), a civil society coalition, pointed out her alleged rapist, Ah Heng (called ‘Johnny’ in the task force report) had escorted her to make the retraction. It said Ah Heng threatened and intimidated her into changing her story.

    The PSG have criticised the police for closing their investigation into the sexual abuse, although the police had a representative in the task force.

    The Bruno Manser Foundation (BMF), a NGO based in Switzerland that works for the Penan in Sarawak, has called on Masing to issue an apology.

    The BMF had highlighted the sexual abuse of Penan by loggers last year. This sparked ocal media coverage and led eventually to the high-level task force investigation.

    Masing’s changing story

    Masing is unlikely to comply with any request to apologise. He is a leader of the Dayak-based Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), a splinter group from the Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS).

    The PBDS nearly took over the Sarawak government in 1987 from Abdul Taib Mahmud, the most tenacious chief minister in the history of Malaysia.

    Masing was PBDS vice-president and a stalwart of the opposition against Taib’s leadership of the state Barisan Nasional (BN) at the time. With a doctorate in anthropology, Masing was one of the most articulate political voices expressing the anger of the majority Dayaks, over the loss of their land to logging and plantation companies.

    Following a crushing PBDS defeat in state elections in 1991, the party was broken and returned to the state BN. Masing was instrumental in dismantling the PBDS. He set up the PRS in 2003, claiming to represent Dayak people in the state BN.

    Since then, he has been vilified by the Dayak communities fighting for their customary land rights all over Sarawak. The Penan, numbering some 15,000, are one of the ethnic groups included under the Dayak umbrella.

    Masing is a highly qualified anthropologist. He understands the false dichotomy between ‘them’ and ‘us’. He has been trained in the cultural sensitivity required of all ethnographers and, as such, should serve as a Dayak spokesman for the Sarawak government.

    Instead, he has become a vociferous defender of the Sarawak government’s abysmal record of deprivation of the Dayaks’ native customary rights (NCR) to land. He has transformed into the nemesis of his previous identity as a proponent of Dayak rights.

    Sarawak’s political rivalries have thrown up public announcements and graphic descriptions of how its ministers allocate timber licences to family members and friends. They in turn lease the licences to loggers to extract timber. The logging companies – and their benefactors – have grown fabulously rich from their concessions.

    Under the Sarawak Land Code 1958, natives are entitled to claim land they have used under customary law or adat. The Federal Court has affirmed the natives’ customary claims in celebrated landmark decisions such as Nor Nyawai vs Borneo Pulp Plantation Sdn Bhd, and Madeli Salleh vs the Government of Sarawak.

    Regardless of court decisions, the logging companies, oil palm plantations and hydro-electric dam construction corporations have bulldozed these NCR claims aside. The state government claims all land without title is state land, even if NCR claims are pending.

    Frustrated by the failure of the law to protect their communal farms and forests – and with landmark court cases ignored by the executive – Dayak communities have set up many blockades against the logging and oil palm companies.

    Yet Masing continues to deny the widespread hardship among rural Dayak. He was disparaging about the Dayaks who fought for their land rights.

    “You’re looking at state land. That land belongs to the government,” he told the BBC.

    “But you cannot condone people who are squatters who are in areas where they should not be. If it is indeed their land, the law of the land will take care of that.”

    Masing believes Taib clean……….
    Borneo Post, June 23, 2011, Thursday

    CENTRE OF MEDIA ATTENTION: Reporters crowd around a speaker in the Media Room as Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud delivers his personal statement regarding the investigation by the Swiss Federation into his alleged assets in Switzerland.

    KUCHING: Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing said he believed Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud is innocent of all the corruption allegations hurled at him.

    The Baleh assemblyman also lauded Taib for being brave enough to tackle the issue head on yesterday.

    He said this when asked to comment on Taib’s explanations to the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) yesterday that he does not own a Swiss bank account or assets and investments in Switzerland.

    “It is very good for him (Taib) to tackle the issue straight on.

    “That is what I expected a leader to do. As a politician you must not hide anything. If you have nothing to hide then go straight on because we are judged by public perception,” Masing said.

    Masing added that he was “impressed and satisfied” with the Chief Minister’s answer and he eagerly awaits the Swiss authorities to respond.

    “The onus of proof is from the other side,” Masing stressed.

    Asked whether the public would be convinced of Taib’s innocence, Masing lamented that members of the public always make judgement based on emotion and not the law.

    That, he added, represented one of the toughest obstacles which all politicians have to endure.

    “We are not judged by the fine lines of the law. We are judged by allegations, half truths and lies.”

    Meanwhile, Second Minister of Finance Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh said what Taib did yesterday was to make it known to the whole world that the graft allegations were unfair to him.

    “Of course once the allegation is made and published in the press, not only the image of the Chief Minister but the state government of Sarawak may be tarnished,” he lamented.

    Therefore, he added, it was important for Taib to make the statement in DUN to redeem himself and to clear his name.

    “I think it is the right thing to do,” Soon Koh said.

    Meanwhile, the Chief Minister’s statement failed to impress PKR leaders.

    State PKR liaison chief and Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian said it was “quite unfortunate” that Taib’s statement was not put up for debate.

    He pointed out that there was no mention of whether the Chief Minister’s letter had been replied to and that PKR would be interested to know what Taib wrote and the reply, if any, to it.

    “As it has been reported that this involves MACC, we hope that the whole investigation will continue on in spite of the explanations he (Taib) made in the Dewan…as it is only an explanation. If there is really truth in it, then of course it is of concern to the public at large, especially Sarawakians,” said Baru.

    When asked whether the Chief Minister’s denial would help to assuage public concerns, Baru said he did not think so as there was nothing particularly significant about the statement.

    “You need to have concrete facts and evidence and decisions made either by the Swiss President or authority of Switzerland, or even from MACC. The report we hear is about an ongoing kind of investigation, so as for now, we’ll leave it as it is.

    “Unless they come up with a conclusion, it’s nothing that would wipe out any doubts or anything for that matter.”

    Comment by Teddy Gumbang — October 25, 2012 @ 11:49 AM | Reply

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