Press Statement: NGO response to exploitation of Penan womenfolk

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.

Endorsed by:

  1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  2. Bar Council
  3. Borneo Child Aid Society
  4. Building Workers International (BWI)
  5. Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC)
  6. Center for Policy Initiatives (CPI)
  7. Civil Rights Committee of The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)
  8. Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM)
  9. Group of Concerned Citizens
  10. Health Equity Initiatives (HEI)
  11. Jaringan Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JOAS)
  12. Kuala Lumpur Legal Aid Center
  13. Kumpulan ACTS
  14. Labor Resource Center (LRC)
  15. Malaysia Social Research Institute (MSRI)
  16. Malaysia Youth and Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)
  17. National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
  18. Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM)
  19. Penang Watch
  20. Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor
  21. Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor dan Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
  22. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
  23. Pusat Kebajikan Good Shepherd
  24. Pusat Komas
  25. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
  26. Rumah Nursalam
  27. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
  28. Save Ourselves (SOS!)
  29. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  30. Tenaganita
  31. Voice of the Children
  32. Workers Organization Malaysia
  33. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  34. Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)
  35. Youth for Change (Y4C)

4 Comments on “Press Statement: NGO response to exploitation of Penan womenfolk”

  1. Crankshaft says:

    Now this is good. More action. Let’s hope it gets the ball rolling.

  2. bangmalaysia says:

    Bar Council chairman Datuk Ambiga made a pertinent point when she said that Malaysia was a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

    Under Article 7, she said that as individuals, indigenous people have “the right to life, physical and mental integrity, liberty and security”; and that as a group, they have “the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence, including forcibly removing children of the group to another group.”

    Malaysia MUST show its commitment to the UNDRIP and comply with all its provisions. Therefore it must keep up the pressure so the incidents of rape and abuse of indigenous girls and women will stop totally or else we will be a pariah in the eyes of the world.
    Thanks for this extra info.

  3. bangmalaysia says:

    And this is a comment made on citizen’s blog of The Star on this issue:

    “When it was highlighted that an ex-child genius was working as a high-class prostitute in UK, so many UMNO people offered to help her, but when so many young Penan girls were raped and taken advantage of, what do we have – silence????? Why – is it becoz there’s no glamour in protecting the native rights? Or you think it would be too troublesome? Or was it that you guys prefer to deal with cases that allows you to travel abroad or go holiday on the reason that you’re helping these people?

    So to the Puteras and Puteris of UMNO – you placed prostitutes and Mat Rempits above rape victims? Yeah – Again, your hypocrisy has shone ever so brightly again.


  4. Tsunami says:

    The indigenous group in sarawak are not considered citizen of malaysia. so they (the police, suhakam, sarawak government) thought. There are parties which forbid investigation?? No one bothers.
    Suhakam?? fuck. report logded 2000 no bloody action. police ?? out of respect 0r no respect at all? they have to wait for report to be logded. what a bullshit.
    They are lots of peoples more interested in the timber / logs. They wanted to carved a nice bloody coffin out of in. The moment blockades are reported, the very moment the police act. And they published they act fast. my compliments. and my ass of cause.

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