What Rainforest?

Hello Eastern Times
May 2, 2010, 9:25 am
Filed under: Campaign, Films, Indigenous People, Land, Logging, Media Reports, Oil Palm

Hi everyone,
Much apologies for the hiatus of this blog. We’ve been extremely busy and to be absolutely honest, in a way, ignored the existence of this page. But hey… we’re back.

Today I present to you the saga between Hilary Chiew and The Eastern Times as a result of the former presenting Penusah Tana to an audience in London. Here goes…

April 14, frontpage on the Eastern Times

April 15, frontpage on the Eastern Times… again (thanks for the publicity)

The Eastern Times, having realized the error of their ways, but not really

Hilary Chiew’s rebuttal to the Eastern Times, 29 April 2010

On April 14, three days before a film-screening intended for a Malaysian crowd was scheduled in London, the Sarawak-based newspaper, Eastern Time, front-paged a story drawing attention to the event.
It was to be the screening of my documentary film – Penusah Tana (The Forgotten Struggle).
In a highly unusual publicity of the event, veteran journalist James Ritchie implied that the film presented a false picture of the Penan’s long-standing resistance against logging.
Interestingly, he included his interview with Ajang Kiew, the protagonist of the film, of which the senior Penan admitted to his involvement in past blockades – the peaceful protest method employed by the Penan that has come to symbolise their defence of their forest home in the high-profile international campaign to save Sarawak rainforest.
Notwithstanding the fact that Ajang Kiew has decided that he has enough of the confrontational ways and now preferred to engage in ‘give and take’ discussions, the historical facts remain that he was a veteran blockader as depicted in the film.
As I won’t pretend to be able to comprehend the hardship that Ajang has suffered all those years, so I would not judge him for his decision in his old age.
However, I did make it a point at the screening in London to mention that Ajang has abandoned the struggle and no longer heads the Sarawak Penan Association.
Never did Mr Ritchie contact me to verify if indeed his interpretation of the event was correct. Neither did he check with the host of the event that the screening was a campaign against Malaysian timber and oil palm plantation industries as he virtuously proclaimed.
I have never met Mr Ritchie and couldn’t have possibly offended him to warrant such a personal attack that was so apparent in the following article next day in the same newspaper, again on the front-page.
In the second article, he wrote: Failing in her attempts to sway local public opinion by raising emotional issues such as the alleged rape of Penan schoolgirls, Chiew is now treading on the trodden path of foreign NGOs bent on attacking Malaysian primary industries.
As was typical of mainstream media reporting, particularly timber company-owned Sarawak newspapers, on conflicts arising from commercial logging in the state for the last quarter century, Mr Ritchie pointed his finger to western media/NGOs evil interference.
Alas, he would be disappointed. Neither was western media invited to the screening nor was there presence of western environmental NGOs.
As for the Penan rape case – public outrage was evident from the number of letters, sms-es, local NGOs and official responses carried in major newspaper and online publications. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development promptly set up a task force and the police launched an investigation. The taskforce’s report acknowledged that sexual violation of Penan women and young girls was indeed a problem afflicting the marginalised Penan community. Until today, the police has neither officially announced its investigation results nor decisions on the matter.
Mr Ritchie surely is aware of the Ministerial Penan Task Force Report which incidentally included the testimonies of the two young victims highlighted in my articles.
In the last few years, the plight of the Penan is also documented by the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) in the agency’s own independent investigations which showed that the Penan are worst off today than they were 20 years ago and the underlying cause being the unsustainable logging practices sanctioned by the state.

Note to Editor:
The said documentary was premiered in Malaysia in 2007 and screened at numerous venues and is viewable on the website http://www.whatrainforest.com

Further Reading:

Free Malaysia Today

The Malaysian Mirror


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’m so proud of you, Hilary. Bloody amazing spirit! Sad to see a veteran journo like James Ritchie choose to serve the Dark Lords of Rampant Greed and Unmitigated Evil.

Comment by Antares

Veteran journo is a good word to describe this esteemed co-author of “Sarawak Awakens.”

Much of the local news in Sarawak reads more like journography than journalism.

Comment by Phil H

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