What Rainforest?

Are Penan girls worth so little?
August 26, 2009, 4:46 am
Filed under: Indigenous People, Logging, Media Reports, Social

letter by Katrina Jorene Maliamauv
from Malaysiakini.com
Aug 25, 09 5:04pm

The bile is rising in my throat.

For more than ten years at least, Penan girls have been raped, violated and sexually abused. The Penan women in the community have been at dire risk of various forms of sexual assault and harassment. Young school-going girls have made the difficult step to come forward and say that they have been raped by members of the logging companies.

The life and dignity of a Penan woman, however, appears to be worth less than RM3,600.

Investigations into the allegations of rape and abuse by loggers in Sarawak against the Penan girls have led nowhere. Today, the Sarawak police say they can only afford the RM100,000 needed to pay for police personnel, and not the RM3,600 proposed to pay for the much-needed Penan-Malay translators, if the six-day investigation into these allegations were to be carried out.

The police can spend RM15 million on a by-election in Kuala Terengganu, but RM3,600 to pay for an essential part of an investigation into rape of children is too much?

By the way, how much was spent by the police on “guarding public interest” during the recent peaceful assembly in Kuala Lumpur?

Is the interest of the people in power worth more than the safety, security and basic rights of the Penans?

Due to the lack of confidence in the Sarawak police among the local community, suggestions have been put forth in the past by numerous groups, including a coalition of NGOs and the Malaysian Bar Council that Bukit Aman should lead this investigation. Bukit Aman has apparently said that it’s up to the Sarawak contingent.

On Oct 7, 2008, it was reported in the Star that the then Women, Family and Community Development Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen had announced the setting up of a task force to look into the plight of Penan women and girls.

“We are going to investigate this thoroughly. This cannot happen, and we must protect our women and children, especially those in the minority groups,” Ng had said. What has happened since?

All this buck passing between Bukit Aman and Sarawak, and the deafening silence from the powers that be (or at most, politically correct lip service) has left a bitter taste in my mouth. If it really is a question of RM3,600, I say with utmost certainty that that money can be raised in a jiffy. But we all know that that isn’t the real reason now, is it?

It seems abundantly clear to me that children can get raped in Malaysia, and yet we’re too busy covering our own rears and interests. The more serious questions therefore are what interests are these? And whose rears are we covering?

At the end of the day, what is the worth of a Penan girl? In this 1Malaysia, it’s apparently not much at all.


1 Comment so far
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It is most unfortunate that the Penans are the thorn-in-the-flesh of the Malaysian government and authorities inevitably due to their consistent stance in opposing logging.

But it’s heartening to read letters such as this, now and then, including the continuous, albeit sparse, media report on this case. It goes to show that it is still alive in some peoples’ memory.

Comment by hornbill

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