KUCHING: The standoff between Penans and the authorities continued at the controversial Murum dam as the villagers accused police of fabricating stories to make the protesters look bad.
The Penans have denied a recent statement by Belaga police chief DSP Bakar Sebau that many of the protesters were armed with parangs, and had behaved in an aggressive and intimidating manner.
According to the police, there were about 100 people including children at the blockade.
“The report is a spin. We were not aggressive but were provoked by the police when Sarawak Energy Bhd [SEB] workers wanted to enter the dam site,” a spokesperson for the protesters said.
He also rubbished allegations that the Penans were armed for the purpose of confronting the police.
“The normal practice for the indigenous peoples of Sarawak when they go out of their houses is to bring a jungle ‘parang’, better known as ‘malat’, as a tool for them to clear undergrowth, collect forest resources, chop firewood or cut wild game.
“They never wielded a parang or any other weapon when they were confronted by the police. This is the normal argument by the police whenever the indigenous communities in Sarawak are protesting or setting up a blockade.
“Why should the police be afraid of us? They are the ones who have the firearms and they can use them. This is just another delaying tactic,” he added.
Asked on the Penans’ next course of action, he said they would continue protesting until the government is ready to negotiate with them.
“There is nothing left and once the waters rise and covers their settlements nobody is going to do anything. So they are still insisting that their plight should be addressed.”
The Penans are master blacksmiths and they make their own “malats” for heavier work like clearing trails, making shelters and harvesting “umbut” heart of palm. The “penat”, on the other hand, is a smaller knife used for more intricate work, including preparing feather sticks and food.
They are also skilled in traditional handicraft making and their handiwork is highly sought after by other ethnic groups in their area and fetch high prices in the town areas.
“The traditional skills have proved valuable to us because we can adapt to the modern world and use our craft to make an income. People in the town pay good money for ‘malat’ and ‘penat’ and for us it is part of our tradition,” he said.
~ The Ant Daily