that merry wanderer of the night (akisawana) wrote in ontd_political,
that merry wanderer of the night

What Is The Worth Of A Penan Girl?

The Penan are one of the aboriginal peoples of Malaysia. They live in Sarawak and Brunei, on the island of Borneo. Sarawak is one of the world's leading exporters of tropical hardwood, and the Penan live in the rainforest.
RM 4 = USD 1.

The bile is rising in my throat.

For more than ten years at least, Penan girls have been raped, violated and sexually abused. The Penan women in the community have been at dire risk of various forms of sexual assault and harassment. Young, young, school going girls have made the difficult step to come forward and say that they have been raped by members of the logging companies.

The life and dignity of a Penan woman, however, appears to be worth less than RM 3,600.

Investigations into the allegations of rape and abuse by loggers in Sarawak against the Penan girls have led nowhere. Today, the Sarawak police say they can only afford the RM 100,000 needed to pay for police personnel, and not the RM 3,600 proposed to pay for the much-needed Penan-Malay translators, if the 6-day investigation into these allegations were to be carried out.

The police can spend RM15 million on a by-election in Kuala Terengganu, but RM 3,600 to pay for an essential part of an investigation into rape of children is too much?

By the way, how much was spent by the police on “guarding public interest” during the recent peaceful assembly in Kuala Lumpur?

Is the interest of the people in power worth more than the safety, security and basic rights of the Penans?

The Sarawak Contingent –where the blame is being placed now- is certainly being reflected in a despicable light. I highly doubt it’s a lack of willpower or a lack of funds, because some of the suggestions put forward by the Sarawak police have raised serious questions about where their interests lie; or at least, who their puppeteer is.

These questions are fuelled by the manner and conduct of the police, a prime example of which is ACP Huzir and the Miri Resident, Dr Ngenang anak Janggu’s statement that “investigating officers should feel free to use the vehicles and drivers from the logging company to visit the Penan communities”. Am I to understand that if I lodged a police report stating that Mr. X raped me, I can expect the police to “feel free to use vehicles and resources” from Mr. X and his family in order to thoroughly investigate whether I was raped by Mr. X?

Due to the lack of confidence in the Sarawak police among the local community, suggestions have been put forth in the past by numerous groups, including a coalition of NGOs and the Malaysian Bar Council that Bukit Aman should lead this investigation. Bukit Aman has apparently said that it’s up to the Sarawak Contingent.

On the 7th of October 2008, it was reported in The Star that then 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. “We are going to investigate this thoroughly. This cannot happen, and we must protect our women and children, especially those in the minority groups,” Dr Ng had said. What has happened since? Has the value of the Penan dropped against the value of the Peninsular?

All this buck passing between Bukit Aman and Sarawak, and the deafening silence from the powers that be (or at most, politically correct lip service) has left a bitter taste in my mouth. If it really IS a question of RM 3,600, I say with utmost certainty that that money can be raised in a jiffy. But we all know that that isn’t the real reason now, is it?

It seems abundantly clear to me that children can get raped in Malaysia, and yet we’re too busy covering our own rears and interests. The more serious questions therefore are what interests are these? And whose rears are we covering?

At the end of the day, what is the worth of a Penan girl? In this oneMalaysia, it’s apparently not much at all.

Tags: race / racism, rape, womens rights
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