MIRI: The rural transportation system in Sarawak needs to be overhauled to provide schoolchildren safe passage to school, said the Sarawak Teachers Union.
In particular, the union urged the Government to ensure that schoolgirls and young women did not have to hitch rides from timber and plantation company workers.
Union president William Gani Bina said yesterday that a large population of rural folk in Sarawak depended on timber and plantation workers for transport because the Government had failed to implement a proper public transport system for rural Sarawak.
“The recent allegations that schoolgirls and women from the Penan community in Baram had been sexually abused by drivers in timber and plantation companies should serve as a wake-up call,” he added.
Asked whether the union had received any formal complaint about native schoolgirls being sexually abused by private company workers in the interior, Bina said they had not.
He said the union had for years been urging the authorities to resolve the rural transportation woes.
The recent allegations of sexual abuse had raised concern among the authorities.
The police, the Women and Family Affairs Ministry, the Human Rights Commission and the Sarawak Social and Urban Development Ministry are investigating the claims.
Bina said local political leaders should also be pressuring federal and state governments to revamp the rural transportation system.
Meanwhile, a police team from the Sarawak police headquarters in Kuching was sent to Baram to investigate the alleged abuses. It visited longhouses and schools in the places where the alleged abuses took place.
The team also spoke to various quarters, including the longhouse folk and the management of the various timber camps, and recorded statements.