KUCHING: Penan headman Juwin Lehan of Long Win village in Tutoh, Baram demands from a local newspaper, the Borneo Post a full apology and retraction of the article with the headline ‘Penan sever ties with rights, environmental groups’ which was featured in the page two of the paper on May 8, 2012.
Juwin in an telephone interview today with BRIMAS (Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia) said that what was written in the paper were false and he never knew there were journalists present recording his meeting with the Miri Resident, Antonio Khati Galis and the Penan Community leader Temenggong Datuk Hassan Sui at the former’s office.
“I was invited to the Resident’s Office by Temenggong Datuk Hassan Sui for a meeting with the Resident and himself and initially, I was not sure what the meeting was about,” said Juwin.
Later, when Juwin and his wife went to the Resident’s Office, he learnt that the meeting was to inform him that his name has been short listed as a candidate to be a Community Chief or Penghulu.
“During the meeting, apart from the Resident and the Temenggong there were a few other people present whom I do not recognise.
“They asked me questions about my involvement with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and warned me that I would not be qualified to be Penghulu if I continue to work with NGOs,” Juwin said, denying that he ever made a statement that said that he was misled by local and foreign human rights groups including Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia).
He also denied that the Penan communities had not benefited from the funds raised by the groups to assist their community.
“All I said was the Penans are still lagging behind other communities. However we are not against development and we are willing to work with anyone who is willing to assist our community be it the government or the NGOs.
“I am very disappointed with whoever was the mischievous reporter who had very irresponsibly and unethically put words into my mouth and distorted what I had actually said during the meeting.
“In any case, I am not desperate for any position, Penghulu or otherwise,” added Juwin.
Meanwhile, BRIMAS Executive Secretary Mark Bujang alleged that Juwin was misled and trapped by the Resident Antonio Khati Galis and Temenggong Hasan Sui to come to the office and to condemn NGOs.
“They wanted to make use of him to say bad things about NGOs in exchange for a Penghulu appointment.
“They have their own reasons and motive for doing so,” said Bujang, pointing out that BRIMAS was disappointed with the article in their daily alleging that the Penans were being manipulated by the NGOs.
“The media should be more responsible in their reporting and should not distort the truth to benefit certain people in power,” he added.
It is understood that some NGO lawyers are studying the statement made by Juwin to the Borneo Post and are trying to get his full details before deciding whether to take legal action or not.
In the article, Juwin was quoted to have said that the Penan community in Baram had now realised that local and foreign human rights groups never really cared for their plight when they claimed to champion their rights locally and internationally.
He said that the community from Apoh Tutoh in the interior of Baram had now realised that they had been taken for a ride and misled by these groups including Sahabat Alam (Friend of the Earth).
He said that they were showered with many promises and they said they would bring changes to their community.
They were all just empty and sweet promises as nothing good had come out from their promises, he said, pointing out that they were fooled by the groups to erect blockades in the interior of Baram.
“Funds were raised internationally by the groups but none was given to the community and they had not benefitted from the funds raised,” he added.
The Penan chief said that his community no longer wanted to have any connection and relation with those organisations.