A couple of issues

But first, a little housekeeping.

I’d like to say here, that I’m pleasantly surprised that I’ve received comments that welcome me back. Though I’ve valued the comments and discussions from my past posts, I wouldn’t have expected that after 3 months of absence, my little voice would still be heard amidst the many MANY blogs out there. So thanks, really, for giving me a welcome back.

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I’ve been away from blogging for 3 months. And when I say “blogging”, I mean even away from reading most blogs. I kept my sources of information to mainly the online news portals.

The main reason why I stopped to take a break back in February, other than my other priorities, was because I was starting to feel obliged to write/think in a certain way. And it’s not a good feeling. I wanted to give myself some time to gather my thoughts and search within myself, what it is that I really care about.

My posts have been mostly pro-Pakatan Rakyat. There can be no denying it. But I don’t want to become a blind supporter of PR. Nor do I want to be someone who criticises BN simply because it’s BN.

With that said, I’m hoping that with this (rather new) start to (re)blogging, there can be more open discussions and debates over issues and matters that are of importance to us as Malaysians, regardless of the political stance we each would have.

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Coming back to the couple of issues I have in mind.

One of it would be the recent releases of two batches of 13 ex-ISA detainees. So in total, since Najib took over the helm, we’ve seen 26 ISA detainees being released.

My view has always been that detention without trial is wrong. And this stance hasn’t quite changed since. So while I’m glad to hear that the 26 ISA detainees have been released, I still think that arbitrary arrests and releases do not bode well.

I still have no idea if the ex-ISA detainees were ever really guilty of what they were in Kamunting for, and nor do I know if they’ve truly been proven that they’re innocent.

And what about the others who are still under the ISA, some for more than 7 years?

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The other issue, is about the alleged Penan rape cases.

The investigations were carried out last year, and the report of the result of the investigations was to have reached the Ministry by December. I sent an email to them at that time, asking about what the results were, if the accusations bore any truth, and what steps the Ministry would take. I requested that they made a press statement once they reached a conclusion.

They replied telling me that they would discuss the matter in Cabinet before making any public announcement.

My question here is, has there been any news about this?

As far as I know, I haven’t heard a thing.

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Investigations on the Penan rape cases still ongoing?

This article was in the StarOnline today:

KUCHING: Police will be professional in their investigation of the alleged sexual abuse of Penan women to ensure that any perpetrator will be brought to justice, CID director Commissioner Datuk Mohd Bakri Zinin said.

We want to complete our investigation soon and make sure that the victims are protected,” he told reporters after meeting the state’s CID district chiefs here yesterday.

He said Penan representatives had indicated their willingness to assist the police in their investigation.

However, he said, the probe had to be handled carefully to prevent any miscommunication between investigators and the Penans.

Comm Bakri also said police had “no hidden inte­­­rest” in the matter and were sincere in wanting to help the Penans.

“Our interest is just to help the Penans. If there are reports that some of them have been abused, we will investigate,” he said, adding that police had solved five cases involving the Penan community since 1994.

The article indicates that police investigations are still ongoing, and incomplete, even as I am typing this.

Perhaps you will remember that earlier this month, I sent an email to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development pertaining this issue. I asked of the outcome of the investigations that the Ministry carried out, and of the report that was supposed to come out in December.

To my surprise, I actually received a response from them, though it did not tell me much. They replied that the report has been handed to the Ministry, and that they will deliberate it before bringing it up in Cabinet (presumably some time in February), and will then decide whether to make a press statement after that.

Maybe the police are conducting separate investigations to that which were carried out by the ministry. But surely this case has been going on for too long. Far too long for the investigations to still be ongoing.

It’s good that there is still some news about this issue. At the very least, I know that it hasn’t been completely forgotten. But at the very slow rate that this is going, I can’t help but be reminded of a quote, one that we hear too often: “Justice delayed is justice denied”.


My email to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development on the Penan issue

A couple of days ago, I suddenly remembered that a report on the investigations on the Penan rape cases was supposed to be due in December. Till this date, I have yet to read any update about the investigations.

Following that, I decided to send them an email. My email was as follows:

Pertama sekali, izinkan saya mengucapkan Selamat Tahun Baru 2009 kepada semua di Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita, Keluarga dan Masyarakat. Semoga semua sihat walafiat.

E-mel saya pada hari ini berkenaan dengan isu kes rogol kanak-kanak dan wanita orang Penan di Sarawak. Setahu saya, pihak kementerian telah menjalankan siasatan yang sewajarnya pada bulan November yang lepas. Menerusi suratkhabar, saya juga mendapat tahu bahawa pihak kementerian sepatutnya mendapat laporan lengkap tentang siasatan tersebut pada bulan Disember yang lepas.

Masuknya tahun yang baru ini, ingin saya tanyakan adakah laporan itu telah sampai ke pihak kementerian? Dan apakah kesimpulan yang didapati dari laporan tersebut? Adakah terdapat apa-apa langkah yang akan diambil oleh pihak kementerian?

Jika mungkin, saya berharap pihak kementerian akan membuat penyataan akhbar tentang kesimpulan kes ini supaya rakyat tidak dibiarkan dalam keadaan kegelapan.

Isu kes rogol orang Penan bukan isu yang kecil, dan saya berharap pihak kementerian akan memberi perhatian yang sepenuhnya untuk menyelesaikan isu ini.

Terima kasih saya ucapkan kepada pihak kementerian kerana telah mengambil masa untuk membaca e-mel saya ini.

I wouldn’t expect them to send me a reply. Nor do I know if anything will come out of this ONE email that is probably hidden in the many(?) they receive. But I’m keeping an eye out for a report of any sort pertaining to this issue, which I take to heart. And if any of the readers out there do come across anything, please do leave me a comment to let me know. Thank you.


Report on the Penan cases – is it out yet?

Last month, on the 23rd of November to be exact, the StarOnline had THIS article:

A task force’s report on the alleged rape and abuse by loggers against Penan women and girls will be ready in December.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said the task force, led by her ministry’s director-general Datuk Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur, visited the area in question.

It is now almost halfway into December. Considering that Parliament ends next week, I’m guessing that this report will not see time in Parliament.

I’m curious as to whether there will be news reports on this report. Will we know about the findings of the report?

I hope there are parties that are keeping the Ministry on their toes, so as this doesn’t get swept under the carpet and forgotten. If a report is due this month, then I hope that we all get to know what exactly they found out after carrying out investigations and visiting the area. And I hope we get to know by the end of this month.


Investigations on the Penan rape cases

From Malaysiakini HERE.

Prominent anthropologist and activist Colin Nicholas yesterday assisted police in their investigations into the alleged sexual abuse of Penan women by logging company workers.

MCPX

Nicholas said he was contacted by police three days ago, ordering him to come to the Bukit Aman police headquarters at 3.30pm yesterday.

“They asked me if I knew people from the (Swiss non-governmental organisation) Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) and asked me for the contact details of my Penan friends but I did not give them (the details),” he told Malaysiakini via telephone yesterday.

Nicholas said the allegations of sexual abuse surfaced in 1994 when seven NGOs embarked on a fact finding mission in Sarawak after their counterparts in the state – who had received complaints of rights abuses from the Penan people – had asked for assistance.

Representatives from the NGOs, including Nicholas, then held a press conference to reveal their findings and claimed that there had been various cases of sexual abuse of Penan women by logging company workers.

“The police also asked me about the press conference, but the case was in 1994 and we have already lodged police reports over the matter. The case has only now been handed over to the Attorney-General’s office,” he added.

Nicholas said the procrastination in launching an investigation and the slow response of the authorities has been very disappointing.

First, I’m glad that there are investigations being carried out. This has been a long time overdue, seeing as how the allegations were initially being rubbished and denied, and claims by officials that investigations would be a ‘waste of time’.

What is happening now should not stop at this stage. The authorities have to take this to the next level, which is to ascertain the claims, and to do justice.

To me, it’s not about ‘saving face’, or to menjaga nama baik Sarawak, because these allegations, true or false, do not paint Sarawak in good light. The only way to memulihkan nama baik Sarawak and Malaysia is to carry out thorough investigations and put an end to all this.

If there were indeed rape crimes, identify the culprits and send them to court. This will show that Malaysia puts justice above making money out of logging. If there were no such crimes, expose the lies, and show us a transparent investigation.

Just because the rape crimes were not reported by the victims themselves does not mean that they did not happen. It’s the same like a neighbour reporting a case of child abuse, without the child initiating the police report. The police, in such cases, has a responsibility to get to the bottom of it, and either detain the culprit, or reprimand the liar.

Be transparent about the investigations. Show us that this is not another case that gets swept under the carpet.


Making people disappear

This is an article from The Nut Graph, in light of the Penan rape cases. I reproduce some excerpts:

It is now 2008. Malaysia has gone through long-delayed amendments to laws related to rape in the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code. We had an election during which the Women’s Candidacy Initiative actively campaigned against  Members of Parliament (MPs) who made derogatory remarks against women in Parliament. And yet I still burn with anger and pain when I read responses by the authorities to allegations of sexual assault committed against Penan women and girls.

[…]

The Police Commissioner insisted that a police report had to be made, despite provisions in the Child Act 2001 that empowers the police to take proactive action upon suspicions of child sexual abuse. A disproportionate number of the victims, it should be recalled, were girls below the age of 18.

Datuk Patinggi Alfred Jabu Numpang, a deputy chief minister, initially rubbished the allegations, only to seemingly experience a change of heart: Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen claimed to have received a letter from him strongly recommending a thorough investigation by the police. However, Jabu then proceeded to tick off a Sarawakian blogger who was calling for essentially the same action.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri George Chan, in stressing the need for “very firm evidence”, said it was because it could portray a very bad national image.

Unbelievable. One would think that when faced with reports of systematic rapes committed over a decade-long period, the human reaction would be one of sympathy and anger at the pain so many women must have gone through. But no. We might as well be living in an era when violence against women, especially domestic violence, was seen not as a crime but a private matter.

[…]

We live in an environment rife with apathy and a culture of impunity towards violence against women. Sections of the population still view these violations of women’s human rights as unimportant. Or, at best, they are seen as shameful incidents to be covered up to preserve the family honour.

[…]

And the culture of victim blaming is not the only deterrent to women seeking reparations for the violations they have suffered. Well-known abuses of power by those tasked to protect us all should also give women pause. Recently a column in Malaysiakini highlighted two rape cases where the accused rapists were police officers.

[…]

For we live in a society where equality in every sense is still seen as a dirty word, and where fighting for justice often means a woman has to play a victim-martyr. And this takes us ever further from the principle that a person has rights simply by virtue of being human.

[…]

The struggle for all of us is to see that we are part of this battle. The struggle is to act upon this knowledge, and to never, ever let those in power forget that these numbers are human.

Read the whole article HERE.

What is even sadder, I think, is the fact that in Malaysia, those who are fighting for women’s rights, and fighting against violence against women and children, are women themselves. No, I’m not saying that all men are bad. I’m just saying that there are simply not enough men out there who are willing to go that extra mile, that extra step, to help protect the rights of women and children.

And sometimes, though it’s sad to admit, women are their own worst enemies. We fear the ‘shame’ that we may bring to the family should we tell of such crimes that have been committed towards our bodies. We fear the taunting that will ensue. Some of us believe that this is what we deserve, though we have done nothing wrong, except be born female.

We tell ourselves to endure abuse for the sake of our family and children, when we don’t realise that it is actually breaking the family apart. We tell ourselves to keep rape a secret for fear that our husbands will no longer bear to touch our ‘dirty’ bodies. We make ourselves disappear.

It’s about time we stopped doing that.


Trivialising rape is another form of rape

An excerpt from Christopher K. Knight:

News from the Sarawak rainforest: A Penan girl was gang raped while she was on her way to school; Penan girls gave birth to children fathered by their rapists; Penan girls drugged and raped; Penan girls treated like sex slaves; Penan girls fled into nearby woods when timber workers arrived in their village.

Some people may want to ask, “How long has this been going on?” Some other people instead want to clarify, “Is the story true?”

I only want to ask: Why don’t we question the suspect what he was doing with her in the bushes?

A few other people may want to ask complex and daunting questions: Where is the proof? Why we never heard of this before? Why the girl did not report it to us? Do we not suspect someone have put words in her mouth? Is this another attempt to shame Sarawak government and its leaders? Where is she now? If the story is true, why she is not coming forward to show us her vagina so we can smell out the man who has wronged her?

This is probably the reason why making report of rape is another form of rape. Given the traumas, she probably would not venture to retell the story of shame to just about anyone, not even to the police, other than her few confidants.

I doubt she will ever tell the story to anyone again. I can forgive her, especially now that the whole gang of people in Sarawak Government is acting like they, too, want to have a piece of her. We know her odds, don’t we, when the Sarawak leaders join the choir to dismiss the rape allegation. Iban Jabu anak Numpang, Kayan Lihan Jok, Kenyah Jacob Dungau Sagan… they are the defenders of the Penans. But they refused to believe her. All of them, they called her liar.

She is made wiser now, isn’t she? Next time she is raped or her daughter is raped the best thing to do is shut up. Do you think we can blame her entirely for her silence?

[…]

“Denying the rape ever taken place is a rapist’s job. Protecting self-image against the shame is a girl’s job. An honourable man admits his mistake and quickly remedies the mistake. When Sarawak leaders defended Sarawak’s good name and Sarawak’s pride, they unknowingly defended the rapists; they unknowingly told the Penan girls to come up with a complete DNA report next time she cries rape. They unknowingly were intimidating the victims instead of interrogating the suspects. Truth is compromised.” – James anak Bond in Sarawak Talk

This is NOT about men against women. It’s about our rights as human beings. Why is it when things like this happen, the victim is further victimised? Why are there no laws to protect these victims? Why do we behave so nonchalantly even when we hear of such news?

Do we not care simply because the Penans are located so far away?

Do we not care simply because we don’t know them?

Do we not care simply because we are not related to them?

How mistaken is the person who thinks like this. Our lives are all linked to one another. We cannot detach ourselves from what is happening to the Penans, and to other communities, even if we willed it. They are not only linked to us because we are all Malaysians. We are linked because we are humans.

How can we look on as their rights are being stripped? How can we look on as their lives are being ruined? How can we look on as they slowly lose their spirit and trust in us?

As little by little of their lives are being stripped away by rape and abuse, a little of us disappear as well. Because in our silence and unwillingness to step up to protect those who cannot protect themselves, we create in our minds a little memory that we never want to remember. We don’t want to remember that we didn’t do anything when we could. We don’t want to remember that we stayed silent when it mattered the most.

And as this happens more and more, sooner or later we become walking machines and robots that no longer feel, because it becomes too painful.

I don’t want to ask the perpetrators how they sleep at night.

I ask instead, how do WE sleep at night, knowing that these crimes are happening on our home soil, and yet we are doing nothing to stop them?