Hornbill Unleashed

October 30, 2012

Murum protest: NGO accuses minister of lying

Joseph Tawie

The international community is closely monitoring developments involving the Murum Dam project and the displaced Penan community.

A local NGO has slammed Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage Liwan Lagang for lying to Senior Minister-cum-Land Development Minister James Masing on the situation with the Penans who were protesting the Murum Dam construction.

Liwan had apparently told Masing that the protesting Penans have agreed to dismantle the blockades mounted since last month on the access road into the dam’s construction site.

Chastising Lagang, Sarawak Conservation Alliance for Natural Environment (SCANE) national coordinator Raymond Abin said that the Penans in Murum have not dismantled the blockades.

“The blockades are still there. However in the last two days some of the Penans went back to one of the villages, Long Luar, because one of the men died on Saturday and an elder woman died in Long Singu.

“In the meantime a strong force of Penans is still at the blockade sites. Lagang is lying about the Penans. He has no respect for the Penan people,” Abin said.

Abin was commenting on a statement made by Masing who revealed that Lagang had successfully negotiated with the Penans to dismantle the blockades.

Lagang, who is the Belaga assemblyman, headed a negotiation team with the Penans on behalf of the government in Belaga on Oct 25, 2012.

According to Masing, Lagang had “briefed” them about the Penan situation in Murum, saying the Penans had dismantled the blockades and that the government was looking into their requests “very seriously”.

“I am very confident all the issues will be settled,” Masing had told newsmen after Parti Rakyat Sarawak’s (PRS) supreme council meeting in Sibu on Saturday.

In his message to FMT, Abin said: “Please help to correct this misinformation (that the blockades have been dismantled) as the Penans are very angry.

“Masing and Liwan are lying because they want Abdul Taib Mahmud (Sarawak Chief Minister) to sleep soundly.”

World focus on Penans

Since the Penans erected the blockades against the construction of Murum Dam on Sept 26, 2012, their dilemma has been highlighted by both the opposition and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) including international organisations.

It will become a hot issue in Hulu Rajang parliamentary constituency where PRS will be putting a candidate.

And this is worrying not only PRS, but also the state government.

This was clearly expressed by Masing when he called on the government to handle the Penan issues “carefully and with fairness” because the international community is keeping a close tab on how the Penans are being treated.

“We have to handle them carefully and with fairness. That is very important,” he said.

More than 1,600 Penans from eight Penan villages are affected by the construction of the dam which is now about 70% completed.


  1. Why aren’t we suprise? The BN government is so good at that and we are so used to their lies that we are actually immune to it now. If their ” JANJI DITETAPI ” is to be taken seriously then now is the time for them to fulfill it. If not their ” RAKYAT DIDAHULUKAN ” also is a lie by looking at the way they handle this mess. I wish Ragad missed his shin and got him in the goin instead. That would have brought at least a lighter moment for these Penans whose lives he has turned upside down. That kick would have brought taib to his knees! Well, a spot on aim where Ragad missed with a blow pipe will surely be as effective!

    Comment by brian — October 31, 2012 @ 11:58 AM | Reply

  2. So who is the great Story Teller then? Masing or the Punans?

    S’wak minister draws flak over Penan rape
    Masing: “Penan are very good storytellers”
    By Keruah Usit, Malaysia Kini, 9 Dec 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 30, 2012 @ 4:20 PM | Reply




    Comment by Penan Tong Tana' — October 30, 2012 @ 2:13 PM | Reply

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