Thursday, September 9

Another blatant disregard for the natives

KUCHING: Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth) has condemned the State Government of Sarawak on reneging on its pledges to help the Penan community to live a new way of life.

“Despite their pledges contained in a memorandum signed last year between the Penans and the government, the government has completely failed to honour them,” said S. M. Mohamed Idris, SAM President in a statement emailed to FMT.

The five pledges were:

#1) to make an effort at bringing Penan Community leaders to meet with higher authorities in order to discuss on matters concerning their land and traditional territories;
#2) to make an effort at bringing the Penan community’s application for the construction of kindergartens and primary schools at each Penan longhouse to the appropriate authorities;

#3) to increase the number of community leaders for the Penan communities;
#4) to make an effort at introducing agricultural activities that are suitable for the Penan communities; and

#5) to make an effort at obtaining financial allocations for the housing and healthcare needs of the Penan community.

These pledges were a counter-proposal to the demands made by the Penans which included to stop all logging operations and encroachment on their NCR land to avoid starvation among their people because of shortage in forest resources; the government to acknowledge their NCR status upon their land and recognise their boundary; to allow them to decide about their developments that involve their NCR land; and for companies to respect their rights to their ancestral land and way of life.

“We are troubled by the fact that in spite of the revised and water-down contents of the memorandum of understanding, the State government has yet to fulfill any of the pledges to assist the Penan community a year later,” said Idris.

He said that compounding the matter is the fact that in the months following the signing of the MoU, YB Lihan Jok, state assemblyman for Telang Usan was quoted in news daily in December that the State government wanted the Penan community to relocate to a government resettlement site similar to the Sungai Asap Resettlement project.

The newspaper quoted him as stating that the demands in the MoU will only be fulfilled if the community agreed to being relocated to the site.

“Apparently, the state government wanted the Penan community to stop living a semi-nomadic life and to settle in one place with jobs in rubber plantations and only then will plots of land be provided for them.

“Following this SAM has written to the state authorities to request them that consultations should be conducted to inform the community of this plan, but to date there has been no response.

“Also perplexing the community is the question of RM2.7 million government allocation of Penan housing as announced by Miri Resident, Dr. Ngenang Janggu in the Borneo Post on 18 September 2009,”
he said.

In relation to the symbolic event, the Sarawak Penan Association (SPA) has rightfully asserted that the state government cannot continue to act and function in such a non-transparent governance process that is, uninterested in community consultations and information disclosure.

Idris said: “We also strongly support the SPA in its position that the community cannot be forced or threatened to move from their rightful home. The right to livelihood and property is a right protected by the Federal constitution.

“We believe that the poor governance system is Sarawak pertaining to forestry, land and NCR matters has long needed some major transformative changes. We therefore believe that fulfilling of the people’s demands this time around and a serious study on all their existing grievances will be a right step in this direction,”
he said.

Meanwhile, more than 150 Penan villagers from Sg. Layun, Apoh, Tutoh and Patah gathered in Kpg. Long Nen and Long Belok to stage symbolic blockades in commemoration of their one year blockade anniversary on 2 September 2010 which brought the logging industry to a halt.

At 7.00 am on that day the villagers from Long Nen, Long Belok, Long Sayan, Long Kevok, Long Bangan and Ba’ Marong with banners while holding placards across logging roads to reinstate their demands which were unfulfilled by the government despite signing the letter agreeing to them in a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

The blockade erected last year which lasted for more than a month from August to September was compelled by the apathy shown by the state government towards the communities and their native customary rights (NCR).

Their land has been continuously plundered by logging and oil palm companies despite the strong opposition displayed by the communities over the last three decades.

Following the setting up of blockades last year, the Penans from Long Nen and Long Belok issued the four sets of demands to the state authorities.

In response, the Telang Usan assemblyman turned up at the blockade site and instead of listening to the genuine demands of the Penans pressured them into agreeing to the government’s pledges to assist them.

Until today, none of the pledges has been fulfilled.


Banting said...

Is the government helping or destroying the Penans?

Jabu said he had been helping the Penans for over 30 years, long before any of them was born.

If you disregard their plights and grievances, is it means you are helping them?

Penans have their rights to exercise their private defend of their NCR lands from trespassing by the outsiders, even if they use force.

Mata Kuching said...

For the first time in the history of Sarawak Barisan National and Taib/Ministers’ Hari Raya Open House, not only one but two buses are provided free to shuttle any well wishers but mostly will be hungry “ghosts” to visit these co-called leaders. What does this imply? These goons who hope to attract as many visitors to visit Taib’s open house know it will only boost their ego and that the numbers of visitors will not translate to a show of support for PBB/BN and Taib.

Wishing all Muslim brothers and sisters especially those who had endured sufferings and poverty that they may be blessed abundantly. Selamat Hari Raya Adilfitri.