KUCHING: The Sarawak government has been urged to relook at rape and molestation cases of Penan girls and women which allegedly took place in the Baram interior over a decade ago.
Local Government and Housing Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said legal action must be taken against the perpetrators, mostly timber workers and lorry drivers, following a report by a special committee formed by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry in 2008.
She added that the committee, set up to investigate the allegations, documented several cases of sexual abuse against Penan women and girls by timber workers in Ulu Baram.
According to the report, one victim was raped by timber workers when she hitched a ride in the company's vehicle to go to school and another was raped twice, in 2005 and 2007, by a man she recognised as a timber worker at a logging camp.
The committee also reported that schoolgirls were often molested by lorry drivers while travelling to school in timber company vehicles.
It documented one incident, where a lorry driver groped a 14-year-old girl's breasts. Another incident said a lorry driver tried to molest a group of 10-year-old girls.
"It has been 10 years since and the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice. It is high time that the perpetrators responsible for the crimes as described in the report face legal consequences for their conduct," she told a press conference during her working visit to Sarawak on Thursday.
She had raised the matter during a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg earlier.
Referring to the report, which also highlighted remoteness of the Penan settlements with little access to healthcare and education, Zuraida, however, noted that the living conditions of the Penan community in had greatly improved.
"There are basic facilities and road network to some of the Penan settlements, their education is taken care of, and many students are pursuing tertiary educations today," she said.
The minister said she would also advise the Home Ministry to set up a special task force and mobile units to go to the interiors of Sarawak and identify individuals without proper documents.
"The Pakatan Harapan government will work with the state government on issues regarding citizenship, as most Penan and rural native communities in Sarawak are found without proper identification documents.
"We will help to look into the plight of the Penans and other natives in rural Sarawak. Without identification documents and birth certificates, it would be difficult for them to go to school or even enter higher learning institutes," she added.
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