MIRI: The state government has agreed to several demands from the indigenous Penans of interior Sarawak as part of a peace deal to end a series of protests and blockades against logging operations in timber concession zones.
These include the state acknowledging the Penans’ right to have their own land, Telang Usan assemblyman Lihan Jok said on Thursday.
Other points agreed to in the far-reaching peace deal are:
> The state government conceded that the Penans, the original settlers of the island of Borneo where Sarawak is loacted, must be given land for farming because the majority of them are already living as settled communities;
> The state government admitted that the Penans are indeed a people living in dilemma and that they have genuine socio-economic grouses and problems that must be comprehensively addressed;
> That in every region where there are clusters of four or five Penan settlements near to each other, the Federal and state governments will build clinics, kindergartens and also primary schools;
> The state agreed to build new homes for the nomadic Penans who want to settle down and that those Penans who are already settled will be given government help to repair their dilapidated longhouses;
> The state agreed that the Penan settlements be given electricity and water supply;
> The state also agreed that the Penans be given government financial and technical aid to carry out rubber tree planting and orchard farming;
> The state to give skills training to the Penans;
> The state will request the National Registration Department to speed up the issuance of birth certificates and MyKads for the Penans; and
> The state to establish a special unit at the Resident’s Office in Kapit and Miri Division to specifically look into the welfare of the Penans.
Lihan said the Penans have agreed to these terms in exchange for ending the anti-logging blockades that had been going on for more than a month.
“The blockades had involved nine settlements in Long Bangan, Long Wen, Long Nen, Long Lilim, Long Luteng, Long Belok, Long Daloh, Long Karangan and Long Marong.
“The blockades had prevented four timber companies -- Shin Yang, Samling, KTS and Interhill -- from carrying out logging for more than a month.
“With the deal, the Penans have agreed to allow the logging to resume,” he told a press conference here on Thursday.
Lihan said he and the heads of several government departments had a series of meetings with the Penans protestors to discuss ways and means to end the protests.
He said the government admitted that the Penans are carrying out the blockades and protests as a desperate means of trying to gain attention of the numerous problems they are facing.
“We (the government) acknowledge that the Penans have genuine grouses and problems that must be resolved. They have a right to the land. They must be given land for farming.
“Some 95% of the Penans in Sarawak are already in settlements. If they have no land, how are they going to farm for the long-term?” he said, adding that how much land would be allocated to these Penans and where the land will be located would be brought up to state leaders for consideration.
Lihan said the state admitted that the living conditions of the Penans needed a major overhaul, especially with regards to their poor living conditions and their lack of education and money.
Asked how the blockades were ended, Lihan said the police and State Forestry Department had brought down a blockade without resistence from the Penans.
“Later, the Penans willingly dismantled the other blockades,” he said.
Asked whether there would be any mechanisms to be put in place to ensure that the promises made to the Penans are kept, he said that “there must be positive results within the next three months.”
Lihan however appealed to the Penans to not resort to going through non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to voice their grouses, claiming that while some NGOs are “good,” others were “anti-government” in nature.
At press time, the Penans in the upper reaches of the Ulu Baram area could not be reached for their comments on the peace deal.
The Star reliably learned that except for one Penan chief, the others have generally agreed to the peace deal but on the condition that results be seen “very soon” or else the blockades would resume.
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