Two members of a national taskforce that had investigated complaints of sexual abuse by Penan women in Sarawak have welcomed a federal minister’s pledge to meet them to review the situation.

womens aid organisation pc censored anti rape campaign 130109 ivy josiahRepresentatives of the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) and Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) suggested that this would return the focus to implementation of the recommendations of the taskforce. 

WAO executive director Ivy Josiah(left) said she looks forward to meeting Women, Community and Family Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim, who said late last month that she wants first-hand information on progress of implementation.

“It’s good that she wants to bring the members of the taskforce together for a review. They (government) shouldn’t let (our report) sit on shelves and (gather) dust,” she said.

“The government invested a lot of money in setting up the taskforce and they owe the Penans an explanation.”

NONEWCC programme director Prema Devaraj(right) said the meeting would give the minister an opportunity for a “candid assessment” of implementation of the recommendations. 

“There are concerns that the recommendations have not been implemented in a way that would ensure the protection and well-being of Penan women and children in the Middle and Ulu Baram areas,” she noted. 

“The sexual exploitation of Penan women remains a major concern. The dependency of the indigenous communities on the logging companies for transport and basic amenities still continues.” 

Josiah disagreed with Rohani’s claim that "most" of the recommendations by the ministry’s taskforce have been implemented. 

NONE“We obviously do not agree with Rohani (left), but she has since announced (she would) meet with the taskforce. It is a necessity to meet with us and to see where its (implementation) has gone. 

“The minister needs to confirm what she means by 'most (of the recommendations) have been implemented' and she needs do this through the taskforce.” 

The ministry, when headed by minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, had set up the national taskforce in 2008  to investigate allegations of sexual assault against Penan women. 

The findings were made public in September 2009. Several of the victims were schoolgirls, the youngest being just 10. 

Five Penan women held a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on June 18, saying that most of the recommendations have not been implemented

NGOs working with the Penan community have claimed that the report merely scratches the surface of the issue, and that it is not representative of the many problems faced by the community. 

During the investigative mission to several villages, a key finding revealed that the allegations of sexual violence and exploitation were linked to issues such as land encroachment, river pollution, inadequate healthcare, inadequate transportation and dispossession. 

Following this, the team made specific recommendations designed to combat problems in areas of sexual abuse, birth registration and citizenship, healthcare and education.