Sarawak Parti Keadilan Rakyat today urged Suhakam to probe human rights abuses against the Penan community in Murum committed by the state headed by the nation's reportedly richest man.

"The latest exposes carried in the alternative media and in some mainstream press in the past few days bring home to us the heights of heartlessness and hypocrisy this government has reached.

NONE"The revelations tell of the unimaginable suffering of the Penans in Murum who have been treated in the most callous and contemptible manner by the dam-building bullies and the uncaring government headed by the man reputed to be the richest man in Malaysia," said Baru Bian,(right) chairman of Sarawak PKR.

Bian, who is also the state assemblyman for Ba'Kelalan, was commenting on the blockade mounted by the Penans to prevent workers from the Sarawak Energy Berhad and other companies from entering the Murum dam construction site, an action provoked by the state's failure to honour its promises.

Blockade enters 10th day

Bian said that they had been left with no choice but to put up the blockade to attract the authorities attention and civil society.

He added that the Penan of Murum need the support of every Malaysian citizen who cares about justice and humanity.

The details revealed in the leaked ‘Resettlement Action Plan' tell the shocking truth about the lives of the Penan and their total neglect by the government that "plans to wipe out the land which has been their home and provided their livelihood for generations,",he said.

"Assistance from the government is important but it has not been regular and in some cases, zero assistance given; they receive an average income of only RM154 per family per month, well below the official rural poverty line index of RM830 per month.

"They begged for teachers for years but none was sent; less than 10% have access to education," he said.

Bian  also said that women and babies still die in childbirth for lack of medical support and no doctors, among other woes.

azlanThey had depended on the jungle for traditional medicine but logging had destroyed the herbs and since they have no identity cards they are without official status which means no access to poverty eradication programmes.

The PKR leader said: "Added to the Penan's litany of woes is the insult of James Masing (Land Development Minister) who claims that they are hostile because they lack understanding, and that they were not against the project per se but were unhappy about some of the things implemented without being properly informed.

"What is there to understand about the shameful way they have been treated?

"How would anyone of us like it if our house is destroyed, our bank accounts taken from us and our source of support obliterated from the face of the earth?

"Can we bear to watch our families suffer the indignities of poverty and the humiliation of hunger and hopelessness?

"Please do not be so blasé about the problems faced by the Penans by waving them off as a problem of communications, and pointing the finger at NGOs for instigating them.

NONE"If anything, the NGOs should be commended for helping them to articulate their troubles as the government has preferred not to extend educational facilities to them to help uplift their lives or to help them in any other way," he said.

He said that as for Liwan Lagang, Assistant Minister of Culture and Heritage sent in to ‘explain' matters, the people would like to see what he hopes to achieve at this stage of development.

"I hope YB Liwan would be a real mediator between his people and the government of the day and be very neutral in this issue.

"The truth must be known and exposed to ensure a permanent solution," he said.

Bian added that the total and blatant disregard of Penan rights throw up again the hypocrisy of the government and their all too familiar form over substance hallmark.

NONEHe then called upon Malaysians to support the Penan cause by responding generously to the appeal for funds as they lack in every basic necessity and are enduring hardship at the blockade site.

"It is obvious that nobody in this current government has the will or the desire or the moral courage to do what is right," he said.
He pointed out that the people are now recognizing that this government has far overstepped the boundaries of decency and "descended into the den of dam-mad depravity".

"A change of government is the only answer to the insanity that has beset this country," he added.

[My apologies to Malaysiakini for reproducing the entire story here so that those without subscriptions can access this report, which causes me intense distress.]