Press Statement: NGO response to exploitation of Penan womenfolkPosted: October 8, 2008
Joint Press Statement
NGOs’ response to reports of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation
of Penan girls and women by loggers
8 October 2008
With reference to the growing reports of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation of Penan girls and women in Sarawak, the latest of which was highlighted in the Star dated 6 October 2008, we the undersigned NGOs wish to state the following:
Despite the obvious serious nature of these allegations, the Sarawak police have not taken the issues seriously. Sarawak Police Commissioner Datuk Mohammed Salleh’s insistence that a police report must be lodged first reflects poorly on the police as they can certainly take the initiative to investigate these reports without a formal police report. The situation is worsened by Marudi district police chief Deputy Superintendent Jonathan Jalin who was reported to have said that the police have not found evidence to support the allegations but only a number of “marriages” between the workers and Penan women. The “marriages”, he claimed, were between willing parties, were accepted by the Penan elders, are of a temporary nature and will end once the workers leave for other logging areas. The police in these instances seemed to have summarily dismissed these serious allegations and have failed to take into account the vulnerability of the Penans, especially the women and girls, where the logging company and workers are concerned.
We also wish to add that in November 1994, the Penans lodged a police report listing 10 instances of abuses committed against their persons, property and lands, including the rape of a 12-year-old girl by Police Field Force personnel (PFF, now known as General Operation Force).
These were quickly dismissed by the police even before any investigation has begun, causing a serious loss of confidence in the ability of the Sarawak police to act professionally.
In 2000, a report was also made to Suhakam but similarly there was no action.
Due to the vulnerability of these girls, women and the communities as a whole, we strongly and urgently call upon the Government, in particular the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development and also Suhakam, to follow through their concerns and take these allegations seriously to set up a fact finding mission comprising respected and qualified members who will be able to conduct the fact finding independently, fairly and competently.
We further urge that proper police investigation commences as soon as possible with the Bukit Aman Police heading the investigation, as the communities affected have expressed a serious loss of confidence against the Sarawak police due to their long-standing dealings with them including in disputes with logging companies and the inaction and perpetuation of impunity in the aforesaid abuse cases.
- All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
- Bar Council
- Borneo Child Aid Society
- Building Workers International (BWI)
- Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
- Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI)
- Civil Rights Committee of The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)
- Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM)
- Group of Concerned Citizens
- Health Equity Initiatives (HEI)
- Jaringan Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JOAS)
- Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Center
- Kumpulan ACTS
- Labor Resource Center (LRC)
- Malaysia Social Research Institute (MSRI)
- Malaysia Youth and Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)
- National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
- Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
- Penang Watch
- Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor
- Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
- Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
- Pusat Kebajikan Good Shepherd
- Pusat Komas
- Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
- Rumah Nursalam
- Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
- Save Ourselves (SOS!)
- Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
- Voice of the Children
- Workers Organization Malaysia
- Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
- Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
- Youth for Change (Y4C)