Hornbill Unleashed

September 14, 2013

‘Sarawak wants flora and fauna, not Penan’

Dukau Papau

The Sarawak government’s policy of prioritising the protection of flora and fauna rather than the survival of the Penan community has received severe criticisms from lawyer and human rights activist Harrison Ngau.

“The state government is giving priority to the protection and preservation of plants and animals at the expense of the Penan, whose livelihood and survival depend on the forests surrounding them,” Ngau said.

Ngau (left), who is also chairperson of the Baram PKR division, was commenting on the move by the government to gazette the Suling-Selaan forest in Ulu Baram as a national park.

A notice on the proposal to create the national park was made known to 28 Penan families in Data Bila a few days ago and they were also given 60 days to move out of the area.


The proposed park, covering 767 hectares of forest, will also affect other Penan communities, including those in Long Lamam, Long Ajeng, Long Murung, Long Bubui and Long Sebatu.

In an interview with Malaysiakini yesterday, Ngau added: “The Penan depend on the forest for their sources of food. It is their hunting ground. Take the forest away and they will not survive. Indeed, they have been fighting for the forest preservation since the 1990s.”

ulu baram sarawak 110307The government issued a licence to a company to extract timber from the forest, but the company had since surrendered the licence after strong opposition from the Penan, who erected blockades to stop the loggers.

“Now the government has a new plan on how to deal with the forest, which is to gazette it as a national park,” lamented Ngau, who is a former parliamentarian in this remote region.

“The Penan have found out about the plan and they came all the way from Ulu Baram to see me a few days ago. They asked me to help them.”

He told them also to bring their case to the attention of Suhakam so that the human rights commission could raise their plight with the authorities.

“If the Sarawak government fails to listen to cry of the Penan, then we have no alternative but to sue the government. This will be their last resort,” he said.

Penan becoming a tourism ‘product’

Kampung Data Bila headman Sedin Laeng, 67, who led a group of Penan to meet Ngau, said their forefathers had lived in the area for generations.

“No amount of compensation will make up for the loss of the forest, which is the source of our livelihood. The government may offer compensation, but then, where are we going to live because we cannot see ourselves living anywhere else but here.

NONE“This is our life. We are all born here and will die here,” Sedin said, fearing that they would suffer the way their relatives and friends had suffered in Batu Bungan, Mulu, if they were forced out.

The government, he said, had promised the people of Batu Bungan development and job opportunities, but after the establishment of the Mulu national park, they had been left out of development programmes.

“The Penan, who were initially excited about the job opportunities, are now being treated as objects of curiosity by the tourism industry,” Sedin said, pointing out that he does not want his people to be made a ‘product’ of tourism.


  1. Sarawak led by Pehin Sri also destroys and removes the state’s flora and fauna. He destroys the vegetation, natives and the atmosphere too (as in the case of Press metal) in Balingian.

    Comment by i knowit all — September 17, 2013 @ 12:47 PM | Reply

  2. After vast destruction of jungles filled with flora and fauns and living creatures, they are now pretending to care for what they have destroyed. What a bunch of hypocrites! Is it a little too late now? The great damage has been done and probably needs another 5 generations to recover. Who are they going to fool?

    Comment by Sharpshooter — September 15, 2013 @ 12:03 AM | Reply

    • The gap between peninsular Malaysia and Sabah/Sarawak in terms of infrastructure has in fact widen since formation of Malaysia 50 years ago. PM Najib’s promises can never, ever be believed. They are nothing but Janji Melayu (for his Agenda Melayu, not Agenda Dayak, Bidayuh, Iban…). We all know that. Sabah and Sarawak have always been and will continue forever to be sidelined. His allocation of RM2 billion—if it is indeed true—for the two states is chicken feed compared to the tens of billions taken from each of them every year. A simple calculation will show that the average cost per project (79 in number) is a mere RM25.3 million. What is that?—nothing! Remember, he gave a certain family RM250 million to rear imagined cows in real, upmarket condos. We also ask, Have the projects in the two states been implemented? If any has been, what stage is it at now?

      Comment by Lao Yong Jr — September 16, 2013 @ 11:04 AM | Reply

  3. Lawan Tetap Lawan. Fight for your social, economic and land rights till the last Penan standing.Do not cave in to big bullies.

    Comment by Johnny Bayoi — September 14, 2013 @ 1:21 PM | Reply

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