Thursday, October 9, 2008
As reported in The Star Online.
KUALA LUMPUR: Thirty-five non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the Bar Council want Bukit Aman instead of the Sarawak police to investigate the alleged sexual abuse of Penan women and girls by loggers.
They cited non-action over the alleged rape of a 12-year-old Penan girl back in 1994 and other abuses.
The NGOs said in a statement the affected communities had “expressed a serious lack of confidence in the Sarawak police due to their long-standing dealings with them” and the perpetuation of abuse with impugnity.
Referring to the reports of rape, sexual abuse and exploitation of Penan girls and women in The Star on Oct 6, they said that despite the serious nature of the allegations, Sarawak police had been dismissive, insisting a report be lodged before an investigation commences.
They questioned police commitment since the Marudu police had stated yesterday that they had found no evidence of abuse but “temporary” marriages between Penan women and loggers.
On Tuesday, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen announced the setting up of a task force to look into the plight of Penan women and girls. The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) and Women’s Centre for Change, Penang, will be members of the task force.
At a press conference at the council, its chairman Datuk Ambiga said Malaysia was a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“One of the strengths of good governance is not how well the Government looks after the majority but its minority and vulnerable groups,” she said.
WAO executive director Ivy Josiah, who said the task force had yet to meet, said WAO would like indigenous women to be represented. in the task force.
“WAO would like the task force to not just devise programmes but go on a fact-finding mission to see for ourselves the situation.”
Centre for Orang Asli Concerns coordinator Colin Nicholas called for investigations to “be conducted by Bukit Aman because the Sarawak police has shown itself by its inquiries in 1994 to be either biased or incompetent.”
Baram MP Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan said he is “shocked” by the claims that Penan schoolgirls and young women had been raped and sexually abused by timber workers in his constituency.
Sagan, who said he had not been informed by anyone of these alleged crimes, said: “This is a serious matter and I support the call by Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam for the truth to be exposed.”