‘Assure safety of Penan rape victims’


  • Nation
  • Monday, 14 Sep 2009

stephenthen@thestar.com.my

MIRI: A women’s rights organisation in Sarawak is worried about the safety and daily welfare of the Penan rape victims living in isolated settlements in the far reaches of interior Sarawak.

The Sarawak Rural Native Women’s Association (Wadesa) wants the state government and state police to give a public assurance that these rape victims, living in the remote Ulu Baram district, will be given the necessary protection.

Wadesa president Hellan Empiang said the state’s top leaders and top police officers must stop the “denial game” and show the public what sort of leaders they truly are.

“These rape victims need protection. They must be given all the help and protection they need from the state government and from the police.

“We are very disappointed to find that the very top leaders of the Sarawak government and the state’s police are not taking this issue seriously at all,” she said on Monday.

A special committee, set up by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, revealed in a report released on Sept 8 that sexual abuses against Penan women and girls by timber workers as reported by The Star last year did take place.

However, some state political leaders and police officers have blamed non-govermental organisations (NGOs) for blowing the issue out of proportion.

Empiang said the natives of Sarawak, especially the Penans, were already facing a lot of social and economic hardships, and decades of logging have adversely affected their land, food resources, health, environment and lifestyle.

“While all this is going on, state leaders continue to point their fingers at NGOs. Certain leaders have even gone so far as to blame the NGOs ... for allegedly asking the Penans to fabricate lies.

“These state leaders must realise that the report (by the ministry) was compiled after an investigation by a group made up of government representatives. Stop this denial mentality.

“The state government must own up to its weaknesses and help the victims. The whole country is watching Sarawak,” she told The Star.

She also blasted the state’s top police brass for trying to avoid the issue.

“Sarawak police cannot keep on pushing their responsibility away. Unless they do something about the ministry’s report, their integrity and image will be tarnished,” she said.

Related Stories: Cops are doing their best in sex crime investigations, says minister NGOs: Cops insensitive to plight of Penan rape victims S’wak govt asked to probe abuse of Penan women Penan ‘rape victims’ refuse to talk, say police Rape of Penan women did occur The rape of young Penan girls Shahrizat: Logging firms have been identified Group to seek justice for Penan rape victims The rape of young Penan girls: Cops want more info


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