Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sarawak’s Penans still left in lurch

Leven Woon

June 18, 2013
They said despite a government’s task force having recommended specific actions in the areas of sexual abuse, citizenship registrations, healthcare and education in 2009, nothing has been done.
PETALING JAYA: When 22-year-old Amelia Balan first heard about the recommendations put forward by the federal government’s Penan Task Force report in 2009, she thought that her life in the remote Long Itam village in Sarawak would improve.
However, four years later, she and Penan folks in the Baram Tengah region are still stuck with the same old problems – the lack of protection from sexual abuses, water supply, healthcare facilities, education opportunities, with many of them not having  identification cards.
The disappointed Amelia now wants the new women minister Rohani Abdul Karim to swiftly tackle these by implementing all the recommendations in the task force report.
Speaking at a press conference held by NGO All Women Action Society (Awam) today, Amelia said she wrote in to Rohani a few days ago on the issue but the minister was out of town.
“Her assistant only said she is willing to meet us in Sarawak,” she said, accompanied by four other Penan women.
Penan Support Group volunteer Liza Bong said the task force report has recommended the setting up of the designated transportation system to fetch children to school in order to prevent them from falling victim to sexual exploitations. .
This was because many school children in the remote areas used to rely  on logger’s lorry to reach school. 
“But this was not done at all. Until now the government still do not provide any transportation for  us,” she claimed.
She said although there has been no report of sexual abuse in the Middle Baram region, it is nevertheless important to be executed to ensure the women’s safety.
Amelia also said her village inhabited by about 150 Penan people, there has been no water supply ever since a water pipe burst two years ago.
She said they have to rely on the polluted Sungai Banau to cook and shower, which caused many people to fall sick.
The kindergarten teacher also said registrations of ICs and birth certificate continue to be a challenge in Penan areas despite the report’s recommendations for relevant officials to visit their villages more often.
“In some instances, official insist that applicants must append a copy of their parents’ ICs and birth certificates, while in many cases their parents’ were not even registered,” she said.
Fellow villager Tabita De, 32, pointed out that the village was still short of medical  supply.
“Doctors usually have to come every once in a month, but sometimes they did not due to bad weather and only come the next month,” she said.
Awam senior officer Lee Wei San said this would pose a hindrance to patients who suffered  high blood pressure and would need  medication .
Gadong Ngok, 36, a mother of four said education can be out of reach for the future generation because of the lack of registration.
Meanwhile, 21-year-old Juliet Bulan Singa complained about her native customary land might be taken away and destroyed for logging activities; while 35-year-old Catherine Bitang said the community is in need for more social facilities rather than hydropower dam.
Of the 15,000 Penan people in Sarawak, 10,000 of them stay in Baram Tengah region while the remaining resides in Hulu Baram region.
~ Free Malaysia Today

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