Plight of the Penan womenfolk known since 8 years ago

Excerpts taken from HERE, sourced from NST:

The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) had eight years ago asked authorities in Sarawak to investigate claims that Penan girls had been sexually abused by loggers in upper Baram.

However, nothing had been done about it, said Sarawak-based Suhakam commissioner Dr Mohammad Hirman Ritom yesterday.

He said Suhakam did not have powers to investigate and so it was up to the relevant authorities to do so.

“Neither do we have the power to catch people who are guilty and mete out punishment to wrongdoers. We only have the power to recommend if we have credible evidence.”

If indeed Suhakam had did what they claim they did, then it really begs the question, why have the authorities not done ANYTHING?

It has been 8 long years since they first found out, and it is now being reported that these incidents started happening since the logging companies arrived in that area, which was way back in 1996. Read HERE, HERE and HERE for background.

If reports and recommendations have been made to the authorities, by Malaysia’s own human rights commission, why is it that even today, the Chief Minister is calling these allegations ‘a bunch of lies’ by certain media groups? And the Deputy CM, who incidentally is supposed to be in charge of Penan affairs, conveniently says that he has never heard of such complaints, and asks for ‘proof’.

Although I’m glad that Suhakam has come out to say that they did in fact make recommendations back then, I get the feeling that they’re just doing ‘the minimum necessary’, and are now trying to wash their hands of any responsibility.

Given that they don’t have enough powers to do anything, the least they could have done was continue making recommendations, and noise if need be, to make sure that the authorities did something to remedy the situation.

It’s not enough to just make recommendations, and leave it be even though no action is taken.

But maybe I’m being unfair. What would be a better way would be for Suhakam to be given enough powers. For want of better example, the ACA has been seen as doing a better job since more powers were given to them. The same should happen for Suhakam.

That aside, Sarawak authorities have a lot of answers to give. And Suhakam should not stop now at just giving a statement that the did make recommendations. They, along with other NGOs should demand an explanation, and take serious effort in ensuring that something does get done this time around.


Afterthought: Crankshaft left a comment, and only then did I realise that I zoned out on this part of the excerpt:

He said Suhakam did not have powers to investigate and so it was up to the relevant authorities to do so.

Crankshaft is right, Suhakam was established to uphold human rights for all Malaysians. NOT make useless recommendations that don’t see the light of day.

I checked out Suhakam’s website HERE, and it spells out exactly what they can do:

Seksyen 12 memberi SUHAKAM kuasa memulakan sendiri penyiasatan terhadap tuduhan wujudnya pelanggaran hak asasi manusia, di samping bertindak berasaskan aduan yang dibuat kepadanya.

(Section 12 gives SUHAKAM the power to start investigations independently, on allegations of violations of human rights, and also act on those complaints that are made to them.)

It now looks like Suhakam has some explaining to do as well.


5 Comments on “Plight of the Penan womenfolk known since 8 years ago”

  1. Crankshaft says:

    Suhakam’s excuse is the sorriest piece of lame sh!t I’ve heard in a long time. They’re supposed to ensure human rights are upholded, not make some paralysed recommendations.

    Damn. Stuff like this makes me SO angry.
    I SO know what you mean.

  2. Lady Jane says:

    SUHAKAM is a toothless tiger and are not given powers to enforce or prosecute. Their annual reports were NEVER ever debated in Parliament. Their existence now is a waste of public funds.

    Come on SUHAKAM, you can do better than that. Eight years and you just let the issue sleep. Be more proactve and justify your existece to the rakyat.

  3. Crankshaft says:

    I thought as much.

    But since upholding the rights of some Penans living in the furthest reaches of the jungle does not automatically ensure them a trip overseas with 5-star hotel accomodation, I gather they chose to conveniently sweep it under the carpet.

    I believe there is legitimate reason why the International Coordination Committee of National Human Rights Institutions has threatened to downgrade Suhakam from its current status of full compliance with the Paris Principles to “partial compliance”.

    It found that Suhakam is insufficiently independent from the government, and not empowered to enforce its decisions.

    In other words, it’s just another political slave to BN, pretending to be a human rights champion.

    Human rights, my foot!!
    Yup, read about the downgrading thing previously too. There was *some* hoo-hah about it at first, then everything died down, like almost everything else. It’s got me wondering if they’ll even report about the downgrading if and when it happens.

  4. Crankshaft says:

    Oh, and if you need a factsheet for that, HERE is one from the centre for public policy.
    Thanks for the link.

  5. Crankshaft says:

    I guess we have too many issues in this country to focus on one. And sometimes, we forget that we need to monitor Suhakam as well.

    Less sensational news like that dies down so fast.

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