Silence on the Penan rape casesPosted: May 29, 2009
From the Nut Graph:
Indeed, since the report first emerged in mid-September 2008 about the sexual violence towards the Penans by logging company employees, eight months have gone by. A government-led task force into the Baram district completed its investigation in mid-November and yet six months later, Malaysians remain clueless about the plight of the Penan girls and women.
This issue is something that I am very concerned about. Since the reports first came to light, I have been following rather diligently on whatever can be found in the news portals. I’ve also tried to find out more from the websites of respective NGOs.
However, as the article above points out, it has been a very long time since the investigation, and still we know nothing.
Earlier this year, I sent an email to the Kementerian to ask if they have received the report of the said investigation, and if they had plans to reveal the findings. They replied saying that they will have to wait till the report is presented in Cabinet before they make any decisions about going public with the report.
That was in January. It is now the end of May. And still, nothing.
According to Jacqueline Ann Surin:
In early February 2009, when I met her at the MCA’s Chinese New Year dinner for the media, she (Dr Ng Yen Yen, the then Minister involved) would not answer questions about when the task force report would be made public and why it hadn’t yet been made public.
Also according to the same article, Dr Sharizat, the current Minister involved, was said to have planned to present the report in Cabinet on the 27th of May. That would be two days ago. However, the Nut Graph was unable to get hold of the Minister in order to find out if indeed the report was presented.
I had planned initially to compose a second email to be sent to the Ministry, also asking whether they were planning to at least give a press statement on the status of the report. However, I didn’t get around to doing that.
Part of the reason why I am still holding on to this case in particular is because I was afraid, even from the very beginning, that it would be another one of those cases that got swept under the carpet after a while. And indeed, it looks like my worries were not completely unfounded.
As Jacqueline rightly points out:
Truth is, apart from the Women’s Aid Organisation and the Women’s Centre for Change, no other public interest groups are raising their voices for the task force report to be made public.The traditional media have also lost interest. Two of the largest English dailies in the country — The Star and the New Straits Times — didn’t even bother reporting what Shahrizat said about tabling the report in cabinet and making it partially available. So is it any wonder that the government feels no need to be accountable? Hence, it looks to me that as far as Shahrizat is concerned, the public may just forget about the Penan’s plight if she keeps silent long enough about it.
This is sad, but true.
I have nothing much to add to Jacqueline’s very good write-up. And while I’m completely disappointed with the way the Ministry is going about this issue, I am thankful that there are people like Jacqueline who are genuinely concerned, and who are also trying their best to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Postscript: I think I will still try to make some time to compose that second email. I feel that there is a need for us to show the Ministry that we have not forgotten about this issue.