Hornbill Unleashed

June 20, 2013

No better life for the Penan, four years after study

Tharshinaa Chandran

The Penan of Baram in Sarawak thought their lives would change for the better after the National Taskforce was set up in 2009 to study their problems.

However, four years later, Amelia Balan, 22, and other Penan women continue to suffer the same problems plaguing their village in Baram Tengah.

The promises of the government to offer them protection from sexual attacks, birth registration and citizenship problems and water and healthcare facilities have yet to be fulfilled.

Disappointed with the stagnant developments in her village, Amelia (left), has come forward with four other Penan women to ask new Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim to deal with the matters affecting her people.


For a community living several hours from the nearest National Registration Department (NRD) office, obtaining birth registrations and identity cards (IC) are a continual challenge, despite a recommendation in the National Taskforce Report that NRD conducts frequent visits to the village.

“It is hard to register as a citizen as the NRD officers rarely visit Baram. Most of the Penan have no IC or birth certificates, even the children and elders,” said Amelia.

She added that in her village of 150 Penan people, water supply had become increasingly scarce ever since a water pipe burst two years ago.

“Now we have to rely on the polluted Sungai Banau to cook and shower, which has caused many villagers to fall ill,” she said.

‘Our community will be destroyed by the dam’

For 35 year-old Catherine Bitang, the promises of more clinics, schools and longhouses for the community have been not been delivered either. Instead, the multi-million ringgit Baram dam has been built in the vicinity.

“They’re only building the dam, but what use have we for it? They (government) want progress but there is nothing we can benefit from it. A mini-hydroelectric generator might save our Penan community,” she lamented.

NONECatherine’s (on the left in picture) community, located near the dam, will be flooded and destroyed when it is completed in 2018.

The native customary land, which is the lifeblood of the economic, social, cultural and spiritual well-being of the Penan, also faces extinction due to logging activities, said Juliet Bulan Singa, 21 (above, right).

“The land is like a hospital for our people as we rely on the forest bounty for our medicinal needs as well as for food. Now that we lack basic necessities, our lifestyle has become difficult,” she said.

Tabita De’, 32, added that medical supplies were insufficient and inconsistent, as visits by doctors were regular in some villages but not in others.

“They usually come in once a month, but sometimes cancel appointments due to bad weather. The lack of manpower means they also cannot reschedule another appointment,” she said.

For Gadong Ngok, a mother of four, finding transport to send her children to school is a constant struggle because of her financial constraints.

“Many children have forgone their Form Five as the families don’t have enough funds to support them. My son wants to do Form Six but I, too, have no money left for him,” she said.

There are 15,000 Penan in Sarawak, with 10,000 of them living in the Baram Tengah region while the rest are in Hulu Baram.



    Malaysia was formed on promises of “Peace, security & prosperity” and after the people’s independence war ceased, the colonial occupiers of our land were free to plunder at will.

    For over 30 years the Penans have been in the fore front resisting with their bodies and soul against the depredation and deprivation of their land. They drew support from around the world backed by local NGOs.

    But most of us locally have ignored or stood by as these oppressed minority stood firm in front of bulldozers and the armed gangsters and police of those who rule us.

    Their plight is highlighted year after year around the world, foreigners come to the aid and defence.

    And yet all of us the better off Malays Dayaks and Chinese are just idly watching as these brave people fight for us.

    Yes they have been fighting for us. In defending their jungles they have been fighting to preserving our once virgin jungles.

    Because of our failure to stand by them, the cruel and corrupt ruling elites, the crony timber tycoon triads, Dayak Chiefs have been daring to begin stealing not just Penan land but other native lands.

    Now only an estimated 5% of virgin land is left.

    Although the battle is all but over as there are no jungles left to fight for, the Penans are now struggling to survive from extinction brought on by 50 years of “independence, security and prosperity in Malaysia”. This is described with one word: NEGLECT.

    The plight of the Penans also illustrates the backward spiral into poverty brought on by the theft of our oil and land resources by the Malayan imperialist colonisers and their local running dogs.

    Our country had 100 years of independence and did not have to go through all this plunder and impoverishment compared to 50 years of foreign Malayan rule.

    50 years of being occupied by a foreign army, ruled directly by a foreign Malayan colonial government which had been stripping our country’s wealth with the help of primarily the Rahman/Taib criminal family.

    To reverse this backward slide into greater poverty and loss of self-determination, we must all unite with the people struggling to defend Sarawak land, our land, our country, our sovereignty our independence!

    We must stand up, fight back and take back our country from foreign control!


    Comment by ORANG2BANGKIT — June 20, 2013 @ 8:17 PM | Reply

    • What about Tun Rahman Yacub, a multi millionare after his retirement as a thief minister from 1970 to 1981. Taib Mahmud , his nephew has been the thief minister from 1981 to present day. While the exact net worth of Tun Rahman has not been verified, Taib Mahmud is allegedly worth USD30 billion.Are you saying that they did not plunder Sarawak and make Sarawakians poor?

      Comment by Augustine William — June 21, 2013 @ 2:01 PM | Reply

    • “50 years of being occupied by a foreign army, ruled directly by a foreign Malayan colonial government which had been stripping our country’s wealth with the help of primarily the Rahman/Taib criminal family.”

      Yes you are right. rahman and taib sold us out to malaya so they can plunder our state’s wealth.They staged a phoney act of falling out, “Ming court” to fooled us dayaks and our dayak leaders at that time fall flat on their faces for it for the money laid on the table for them!

      taib and rahman are probably still laughing at how they fcuk the dayaks and we dayaks are still happy that they did that to us until today!

      And the rahman sisters fcuk us dayak further by claiming that we dayaks are only squatters in their land which cousin taib can give the “go ahead and chse them dayaks out” anytime anywhere!

      Comment by brian — June 22, 2013 @ 9:27 AM | Reply

  2. Revenue is generated through the collection of royalty, premium and cess from the timber and timber
    products. About 700-800 million ringgit is collected annually. We want the state government to provide the rate or quantum and a breakdown of the revenue for a) royalty b) premium and c) cess from the time Tun Rahman Yacub became CM until present day. Where are the money collected?

    Comment by Bidayuh Headmaster — June 20, 2013 @ 6:02 PM | Reply

  3. A few years back jabu said there was RM100 millions for the Penans. Now what happened to that money? And taib admitted that there is indeed RM11 billion but in a secrect acount and in who’s secrect acount?

    The penans should question jabu about the RM100 millions and taib about the RM11 billions because these money are most likely revenues from timbers from the junggle the Penans called home!

    Comment by brian — June 20, 2013 @ 3:31 PM | Reply

  4. The Orang Ulu lawmakers in particular and the BN Dayak leaders in general and the UMNO Baru controlled BN led by the thief minister of Sarawak had no political will to address the plights of the Penan and all natives. They would only promise to extend assistance or uplift their life if only the natives of Sarawak were willing to give up their claims on NCR lands and not to obstruct their cronies from extracting timbers encroaching into NCR lands. The natives in Sarawak were not only marginalised but held in ransom by Taib Mahmud and UMNO Baru controlled BN.

    UMNO Baru controlled BN led by the thief minister continued to win in rural and remote Sarawak because of money politics, intimidation, gerrymandering and exploitation of the ignorant and poor natives. Tuai Rumah who remained neutral as they rightly should were threatened with termination and withdrawal of village or longhouse subsidies or grants.

    The rural boundaries currently favouring the ruling government must be rectified or merged to allow fairer representation and greater development.

    Comment by Mata Kuching — June 20, 2013 @ 11:21 AM | Reply

  5. Only after PR take over Sarawak, The situation for Penan might change.
    Tahi Mahmud only look for $ in Sarawak. People said he like Taksin, Yes, he did give, he makan $1000000000000 but only give everyone a cow, bag of rice, etc….But Sarawakia still support him during the last election….I am very sad….He is the Saddam Hussein of Sarawak…Why people still vote for him…Really don’t understand…..No hope !!!

    Comment by Mike-Johor — June 20, 2013 @ 9:00 AM | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: