|The rape of the Penan, and other shameful crimes|
|Posted by admin|
|Friday, 11 September 2009 11:30|
By Pak Bui (Hornbill Unleashed)
The government has finally admitted that vulnerable Sarawakians have been raped by logging workers in Baram. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development caved in to demands by NGOs and the electronic media.
Malaysian civil society has been clamouring for justice for nearly a year. As a result, the Ministry released its National Taskforce report to PKR Women’s Chief Zuraida Kamaruddin this week.
Our wealthy logging companies behave as if they are kings in rural parts of Sarawak. Rape is an expression of power over the victim as much as it is a crime of passion or lust. Therefore it is no surprise to learn that schoolgirls as young as 10 years old have been molested, abducted and raped by loggers.
These loggers carry out these crimes because they can.
They exploit, torture and humiliate Penan girls, and girls from other rural Dayak communities, because they feel invincible.
The rapists know their victims live far from towns and have little recourse to protection or justice from the police.
The rapists are aware that most teachers in the rural schools have been posted there against their will, from distant places. Most would avert their eyes if there are any signs of sexual abuse of their students. Most rural teachers do not want to rock the boat. Instead, they yearn only to complete their “tour of duty” in the ulu and return to their homes in Peninsular Malaysia, without creating any fuss.
The rapists see that the Department of Education has not provided transportation for poor rural students, even those living several days’ walk from their schools. The rapists observe that the Education Department has not pursued action against teachers who have sexually exploited children in Sarawak in the past. Why should loggers fear the Education Department, when teachers involved in sexual exploitation of minors are merely transferred to other schools?
The rapists know that many village chiefs or Tua Kampung are on the payroll of the timber and plantation companies. The rapists understand that many village chiefs have been cowed by threats from timber companies, the companies’ hired thugs, or the companies’ Big Brother, the Sarawak Government. Such village leaders will not act to protect victims of sexual exploitation.
The rapists feel secure in the knowledge that even when police reports are made, as in the cases of “Cindy” and “Bibi” described in the Ministry’s report, Bukit Aman and the Sarawak Police will sit on the reports and do nothing.
Marudi Police Chief DSP Jonathan Jalin, for example, insulted the victims of these sex crimes, when he said police “investigated” reports by asking timber camp workers and schoolteachers whether such crimes had taken place. The loggers and teachers said no, and the police looked no further.
The rapists rejoice in the lopsided coverage given by the local Sarawak press in favour of the logging companies. After all, timber conglomerates own these newspapers. The local press will publish “stories” to support logging workers, boasting how loggers have “assisted” in transporting villagers, even though the entire world knows schoolgirls are raped when they hitch rides, and companies dismantle roads and bridges after they have removed all the valuable timber they can.
The rapists congratulate one another, because the Sarawak government will continue to defend logging and plantation companies against all criticism. State luminaries such as Deputy Chief Ministers Alfred Jabu and George Chan, and Land Minister James Masing, have tried to cast doubt on reports of starvation, or rape of schoolgirls in rural areas.
Alfred Jabu and Housing Minister Abang Johari have claimed the Penan are being manipulated by foreigners. These local champions imply that the Penan cannot tell for themselves that logging companies have contributed to the hunger the Penan are suffering, and the sexual abuse visited on Penan schoolgirls.
James Masing was even quoted as saying the Penan are “good storytellers.” What does this make our State BN leaders?
Nearly a year after, a government task force report has confirmed that Penan women and children in Sarawak were raped and sexually abused by timber workers.
The report by the national task force set up in October last year also found troubling incidents of children as young as 10 years old being sexually abused by the timber companies' truck drivers when they took the children to school.
The task force reported that students were "frequently molested" by the truck drivers.
"In one account, the truck driver molested a 14-year-old's breasts on the journey to school," the report, written in Malay, said.
It said that in another incident, a girl was taken away by the truck driver after the boys were told to get down from the vehicle. Other girls in the truck managed to escape, but were unable to help that one girl get down in time.
In yet another instance, a girl was riding, together with her father, in a timber truck to go to Long Bangan to apply for her identity card. "Halfway through the journey, the passengers were told to alight, but the driver hung on to Mary (not her real name) and sped off. He then stopped the truck, dragged her to a bush by the side of the road and tried to molest her.
"Her father and the other passengers ran after the truck after realising that Mary had been apprehended, and managed to catch up with them and stop any further abuse," the report said.
An interviewee told the task force she had been raped by the timber company's truck driver on her way to a neighbouring longhouse, in addition to being raped when she was 12 outside the school compound by an unidentified man.
"She recalled that the government used to provide vehicles to take them home from school during the term breaks. However, this had been discontinued, so they had to rely on the timber companies as the only means of transportation," the report noted.
In the absence of any viable alternatives such as proper tarred roads or school buses, Penan children who live in the interior are entirely reliant on the timber companies for transport as some of their schools are located four to six hours away by truck.
By Ding Jo-Ann
The report was prepared mostly from interviews conducted by ministry officials and other representatives, including women's groups, in November 2008 when they visited the Penan community in Sarawak. The task force was set up to investigate the allegations of rape and sexual abuse of Penan women and girls in the Baram district.
After close to a year of not wanting to make the report public, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry released a copy of the report to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin on 8 Sept.
"After months of unanswered calls and letters to the minister, I went to see the minister (Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil) yesterday and was informed by her staff that I could collect the report," Zuraida told The Nut Graph over the phone.
The report was subsequently made available to The Nut Graph via e-mail.
No explanation was given by the ministry as to why the report could not be made public initially. The ministry has also yet to explain why it took so long to make the report available to the public despite numerous calls to do so in the interest of public accountability.
Apart from documenting the individual instances of rape and sexual abuse, the task force also found that the Penan were especially vulnerable because of their low socioeconomic status and lack of access to government and healthcare services.
The factors that cause the community's vulnerability include overdependence on timber companies for transportation and other services, poverty, and the remoteness of their villages.
The report also cited the Penan's distrust of the authorities, and their low self-esteem as a result of prejudices against them.
"All these factors — sexual violations, not having ICs, health problems, dropping out of schools — are closely related to imbalanced development. The lack of roads and public transportation causes the Penan difficulties in engaging with the outside world, including government agencies.
"In order to ensure more balanced development, the involvement of the Penan in matters that affect their lives must be increased," the report said.
The report also made several specific proposals to address sexual abuse, including raising awareness within the Penan community on personal safety, violence towards women, and sex education.
"Teachers in Penan schools would also need to be educated to be sensitive to the specific needs and difficulties faced by the community," the report said.
The task force also proposed for "trusted vehicle drivers" and a pupil management assistant to accompany the Penan children back to their villages. No specific proposals were mooted on how to make it easier for those who have been raped and sexually abused in the Penan community to report such incidents.Despite the task force's findings, it remains to be seen whether any of the offenders will be charged and brought to justice for the sexual abuse perpetrated on the Penan women and children. Although several police reports have been made, it is unclear whether the police will be investigating the matter.
The RAPE of the Penan girls & the APATHY of the authorities - Never thought it can happen in a RELIGIOUS Nation such as Ours - MALAYSIA BOLEH!!!
Read more at: http://hornbillunleashed.wordpress.com/2009/09/11/3823/