Friday, September 11, 2009





Media Statement of the
on the

11 September 2009

In September 2008, news broke out that Penan girls, some as young as 10 years, were being sexually abused by logging workers in the Middle Baram area of Sarawak. However, local politicians and the police were quick to dismiss these as mere allegations without any basis.

Such lackadaisical attitudes compelled the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development to establish a National Task Force comprising ministry officials and women NGO representatives to investigate the ‘allegations.’ Aided by local activists in Sarawak, they were able to meet with some of the victims and their families in November 2008.

Ten months later, on 8 September 2009, the report was finally made public. The findings, however, were not surprising – the rapes and sexual abuse did occur and the Penan girls are still vulnerable because of the lack of policing and development in their area.

The police, it appears, are still in denial. Or at best, are ineffectual.

The Associated Press reported that Huzir Mohamed, the head of Sarawak's police criminal investigations department, probed three complaints last year but found "nothing with proper evidence for us to proceed in court." Huzir also insinuated that this was due in part because “the activists did not give specific details to support their claims.”

We take offence to this statement and perception. We maintain that it is the police who have dragged their feet in this matter before back-pedalling on their earlier willingness to work with NGOs on this matter.

For the record, it should be stressed that it was the police who invited us to the meeting with the IGP and other senior police officers at Bukit Aman on 2 January 2009. The police knew they were unable to get the victims and the witnesses to come forward to give information and statements simply because the Penans did not trust the police. Instead, they trusted the NGOs more.

At this meeting, the IGP pledged that Bukit Aman would give its fullest support to a Police-NGO joint investigation mission.

Towards this end, Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Mohd Zinin (left), the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), together with senior police officers from Sarawak, met with Sarawakian NGOs on 20 January 2009 in Kuching. The purpose was to discuss logistics and terms of references for the joint investigation mission.

As requested, a draft Terms of Reference (TOR) for the joint investigation mission and a proposed itinerary for a week-long mission were subsequently submitted for their approval. The Sarawak NGOs gave an assurance that the police team would be able to meet the Penan victims and witnesses, but in neutral venues that were acceptable to the Penans.

It took the police seven (7) months to respond. At another meeting on 17 August 2009 in Kuching with SAC Huzir Mohamed of the Sarawak Police, the Miri Resident Officer and some others, we were told that the RM100,000.00 allocated for the joint-investigation mission by the Sarawak Police Contingent was only for their use and not for the NGO’s participation.

In short, we got the impression that they did not want the NGOs to be involved in the investigation. Our role was only to make sure the Penan victims and witnesses turned up at the place and date of interview as appointed by the police. The official written reply from the CID Director dated 27 August 2009 suggested that this was so.

It was also clear from the meeting on 17 August 2009 that the police and the authorities were incapable of appreciating the fact that the crux of the whole issue at hand is the distrust the Penans have for the police and the authorities, let alone the loggers.

So, to entrust the Resident's Office to provide personnel such as interpreters and to depend on the logging companies for transport, as suggested at the meeting, is as good as saying you are not interested in getting to the truth of the matter.

The police may cite procedure and laws for not going ahead with the IGP’s pledge to have a joint Police-NGO investigation mission, but their willingness to work with parties that are a part of the problem, leads us to suspect the sincerity of the police in their handling of the sexual abuses cases among the Penans.

The Penan Support Group considers the long-occurring sexual abuse of the Penan girls a hideous crime. It is also a distressing symptom of the overall situation the Penans and other vulnerable indigenous groups in Sarawak are facing today. We are committed to seeking justice for the victims and to expose and correct the wrongs being committed in Penan society.

For further information, please contact:

See Chee How
: 019-8886509
Colin Nicholas: 013-3508058

for the Penan Support Group
11 September 2009

(The Penan Support Group is a loose coalition of 35 non-governmental organisations in Malaysia.)

Is it really so surprising in a land where the top cop and attorney general are known to have falsified evidence to please their political masters... ministers and their minions have stolen billions... and the prime minister and his wife are under strong suspicion of complicity in cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder?

Who cares about a few poorly educated Indians and a handful of underaged Penan girls? Collateral damage! 1Malaysia Boleh!
BAKUN'S SOCIAL RUIN ~ Mariam Mokhtar

SEPT 10 — The Bakun dam reservoir project is expected to start soon, possibly next month and an area the size of Singapore will be flooded.

It is not just the environmental damage resulting in the loss of flora and fauna, or the undiscovered species of animals and plants with possible cures for the world’s major diseases that we will grieve over.

Rather, it is the terrifying and regrettable social ruin faced by the people who belong to this region that we will mourn.

These people have previously been hounded by logging companies or the intrusion of oil palm plantations. The hunting grounds and their rivers have all been severely depleted. The forest products which they gather and sell, and the traditional medicines which they derive from the jungles have also been drastically reduced.

As an environmental scientist, my work experience in Sarawak has left me with fond memories of the wonderful people and the place.

The massive changes will adversely affect the water levels, sedimentation, silting, water-borne diseases and the micro-climate. The ecology of the virgin rain-forest is very susceptible to changes that are man-made. There will be permanent damage to fisheries, water quality, fertility of farmlands and forests.

The heart of Borneo belongs to the noble and proud indigenous peoples who comprise the Kayans, Kenyahs and Penans as well as other various Orang-Ulus. These are their homelands. Their history started here. Their culture, kingdoms, traditions, battles, way of life all originated from here.

Some may have been subsistence farmers while a few led a nomadic way of life. Others were expert in the art of boat making, a skill shown in how they can hew a boat from a single trunk of belian. Many showed extreme artistic traits in carving and weaving.

Nevertheless, the chase for progress should not be at the expense of these people. Gone will be the various historical artifacts, their burial grounds, the “totem-pole” equivalent and other treasures that have made up much of their history. Gone will be the longhouses decorated with murals and intricate carvings.

It is a tragedy when the stories, myths and legends that have been passed down from father to son and that can normally be traced to particular locations, trees or rivers will soon be wiped out. Landmarks with significance will be obliterated.

It is a tragedy when there is little connection between their methods of farming, fishing, rituals or methods of hunting, with the way they now live. Their place of relocation has little meaning or sense of belonging.

It is disastrous that man’s desire for modernity and hunger for energy strips others of their rich history.

It is dreadful that Malaysians have always to think in being the “greatest”. In this case, Bakun being the biggest dam outside of China, the dam with the tallest concrete rockfill dam in the world, the one with the largest lake in Malaysia by storage volume or that the Bakun submarine power cables will be the longest in the world.

Progress without culture is a tragedy; but culture without progression, is unforgiveable.

[Source: Malaysian Insider]