Penans – Last of our Mohicans?

By Hussein Hamid

In September 2008 The Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) media release said in essence that:

“Penan women from the Middle Baram area of Sarawak are launching a cry of alarm to the international community over cases of sexual abuse by logging company workers in the East Malaysian state’s rainforests.

The Penan are accusing workers from Interhill and Samling, two Malaysian logging companies, of harassing and raping Penan women, including schoolgirls. They come on an almost weekly basis, but the situation is worst during the school holidays when they know the students are in the villages.

In other cases, school transports operated by company vehicles had been arranged in such a way that schoolgirls had to stay overnight at a logging camp, where they were abused.

Complaints by the Penan to those in charge of the logging camps and to the Police have so far had no effect.The Bruno Manser Fund is asking the Malaysian government to start a formal enquiry into these serious criminal offences. In particular, the government is being asked to ensure that the victims are protected and that the harassment of Penan women by company workers is brought to an end immediately”.

On 8th October 2008 cabinet set up the Jawatankuasa Bertindak Peringkat Kebangsaan untuk Menyiasat Dakwaan Penderaan Seksual on Wanita Penan – to investigate the Sexual Abuse of Penan Women and Girls as contained in The Bruno Manser Fund media release of September 2008.

Here are some of the cases of those sexual abuses that came to the attention of the Jawatankuasa pertaining to the sexual abuse of the Penan Women and Schoolgirls.


  • Case One:
    Age 17 years old. Rape at 12 while walking outside the school compound during school holidays. Not surprisingly at that age she was not able to identify her attacker. She was raped once again by a worker from the logging company while getting a lift from the company’s vehicle from her village at Long Kawi to her school at Long Lama. When she realized that she was pregnant she stopped school and married a fellow Penan.

  • Case Two:
    First raped in 2005 by a worker from the logging camp of Inter Hill. She knew him when her Family got a lift back to the village after sending her sister to school. (Walking to school would have taken two days.) He entered her house at night and raped her in her room. She gave birth to a daughter. Second rape was in 2007. The same guy again entered her house at night when she was by herself and the result was another daughter in February 2008. She did not make a Police Report as she was not able to read or write. This same guy claimed her as his wife – but she refused to accept him as he had two other wives – one of which was a Penan.

  • Case Three:
    She knew of two Penan girls – one age 15 and another 20 that had had sexual relationship with two logging workers while getting lifts to leave their village area. This became the talk of the village and both these girls eventually married Penan men and left the village in 2008.

  • Case Four:
    A student age 14 of Sekolah Menegah at Long Sam whose breasts were fondle while getting lifts to school by the driver of the logging camp vehicle. This is a normal occurrence and the girls reported it to their parent but not to the school authorities. They were worried that the school would accuse them of lying and finding an excuse of not coming to school and then be caning them. There were claims that members in uniform were also involved in these sexual abuses but the girls were not able to substantiate these claims.

  • Case Five:
    She said that she was regularly abused during lifts to school in the vehicles belonging to the logging company. They were even attempts at rape by these drivers. At the age of 10 she and four other girls’ students, while on the way to school in the company lorry, was almost raped by the driver. They managed to free themselves but were injured and did not attend school on that day.

    In another instance she said that the Lorry Driver asked the male students to disembark. They did so and managed to get all the other girl student out except for one girl. The driver drove off with her and to date no one has asked her what happened that day.

    At the age of 13 she was introduced to an Iban man who was a logger while visiting her mother in Miri. She was abducted by him and raped. A police report was made. The Police found her at Kem Kilometer 10 with the man and they were brought to Balai Polis Bakong, Beluru and then to the Miri Polis station. She stopped schooling after this incident.

    Next she got involved with another logger who plies her with cigarettes and alcohol. Other workers from the logging camps often joined them with their Penan girlfriends to party at their boss house. This relationship lasted two years until he lost interest in her. She then got involved with another logger with whom she had a child out of wedlock. She stopped seeing him after his wife beg her to stop the relationship.

    She then met a businessman who came to buy rattan and gaharu. He gave money and food to her family. She had a child out of wedlock with him now aged two. He soon met a Penan girl and tire of her.

  • Case Six:
    She was almost raped while on her trip with her Father and Family to apply for her ID Card at Long Bangan, Baram. In the middle of the journey the driver stopped the vehicle and asked her family and the other passenger to disembark while holding on to her hand. Then he sped of with her. She struggled and he had to stop the vehicle. Then he dragged her into the bush but by that time her Family and the other passengers caught up with them and he did not have the time to do anything.

  • Case Seven:
    She was aged 17 and had just given premature birth at Hospital Miri. The baby survived. She was said to have had relations with a logger but she denied this – however she was shaken and almost cried while denying that it had ever happened.

These are the cases investigated at length by the Jawatankuasa. It is a fact that the workers from the logging camp repeatedly took advantage of the very people who depended on them for transport, food and money. The Penans were taken advantage off by workers of these logging companies that resulted in the abuse of their women and girls.

To take advantage of girls from the age of 10 onwards is despicable and deserved to be punished severely.

The biggest problem in Sarawak is that loggers and government are one and the same,” said William W. Bevis, an American academic. Sarawak’s chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, also serves as the forestry minister, grants logging concessions and approves environmental impact statements. Wong, the environment minister, personally holds a large concession and pioneered hill logging with bulldozers.

Malaysia is one of the worlds if not the world’s largest supplier of tropical wood.

Therein lies the Penan problem. How will the Ministry of Women, Family and Community development plead the case of the Penan women and girls against the might of the Sarawak State Government – against Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud unless international condemnation of these bastardly acts are forthcoming. We know that the Federal Government will be reluctant to act against Taib. The result of the last election when Sarawak made the difference to Barisan continued stay in power is good enough reason for Najib not to do anything. But our condemnation and international pressure will make a difference. So please my friends think of what we can do. Demonstrate, write letters to anybody who can make a difference locally and internationally, hold aloft slogans supporting the Penans….anything to make this shame done by the logging companies and the others to the Penan known first in Malaysia and then the world. In a multiracial country such as ours it is how we look after our minority that will be the mark of our ability to respect and live with each other well. We should not fail the Penans.

  1. #1 by Godfather on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 11:28 am

    “…loggers and government are one and the same.”

    Criminals, all of them. One and the same.

  2. #2 by k1980 on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 11:55 am

    Those logging company workers should go after this 107 year-old nymphomaniac

  3. #3 by joss on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 12:15 pm

    The BN … their loyal supporters, their appeasers, their apologists, their friendly logging companies, and anyone who doesn’t oppose them should be brought to justice and made to pay for their crimes against humanity.Let’s all pray that in 2010 we see the end of all these psychos and their terror-enabling supporters. For too long they have escaped justice.

    why do sarawakian insist voting for BN? will they be loyal to BN until they get nuked by these psychos? And even this may not be enough to convince them to change their heart. BN Sarawak will win an easy victory again in next election. iam certain this will happen

  4. #4 by taiking on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 12:35 pm

    Let my guess our umno gobermen’s likely response.

    1) “No comment.”

    2) Denial. Followed by counter-attack like “negative reporting by foreigners” and “politicising the issue by opposition”. Home Min will summon all foreign representatives in the country for a lecture on what they cannot say about malaysia.

    3) Play with statistics. Example, “There are only 7 cases against the background of 10,000 penan students. It is a small problem.” For good measure they may even add this: “Singapore is much worse.”

    4) This is an umno internal problem which umno will resolve internally. Opposition not entitle to question umno’s internal affairs.

  5. #5 by k1980 on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 12:59 pm

    Continuation from 4) above:-

    5) These Penans are lucky to escape from being c4ed

    6) Wait till there is a by-election there and then we will take action

    7) Last week you complain they are starving. Now you complain they are raped. Next week you will complain that they are migrating.

    8) Kalau tak suka, boleh balik ke Kalimantan. (Penans come from Kalimantan?)

  6. #6 by OrangRojak on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 1:01 pm

    What’s particularly revolting about this issue is that the people who are currently claiming to be acting in the best interests of the Penans are also those who offer decapitation in return for questioning their right to do it. Those people say they need special legislation to defend their way of life from foreign ‘influence’. Those same people are defending – even promoting – the destruction of the way of life of the peoples of East Malaysia. Some of them even claim that they’re copying foreigners (whose ‘influence’ they need to protect us from) while they’re doing it! The blatant hypocrisy of the situation is difficult to stomach.

    There was an article recently at TMI where the author finished “Let’s really demonstrate to the world [how good Malaysia can be]”. It was a call to action for East Malaysia and its peoples, but I couldn’t help thinking the author had completely missed the point. The destruction of the rain forest and the miserable plight of its former inhabitants is the result of decades of well-documented action that really does demonstrate to the world exactly what Malaysians are like. Try promoting a positive national image over that one! Maybe you could employ expensive foreign marketing consultants to influence your own citizens. That might work.

  7. #7 by Bobster on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 1:47 pm

    Is that how they treat our bumiputra minority? To the extend that we taxpayers have to fork out money to help them while State government pretending nothing happens?!

    So NEP after all these years still fails to raise up bumi above poverty line.

    Rape, abuse, hunger is a daily norm and what the Federal corrupted regime going to do about it? Nothing happen lah, everything ok lah, they (Penan) are not the same race as ours by the way, blah blah, excuse excuse.

  8. #8 by mendela on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 5:28 pm

    “Sarawak’s chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, also serves as the forestry minister, grants logging concessions and approves environmental impact statements.”

    This scumbag Tahi is the worst enemy Malaysia ever has produced!

    Where is the World Court?
    Where is the Interpol?
    Where is our Terminator?

  9. #9 by Taxidriver on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 8:25 pm

    Sexua abuse of Penan women is not something new. I heard such from loggers decades ago, but what suprises me is that this beastly act is still a news item today.

    The helpless Penan women are like animals to the loggers who love hunting to pass time. Policemen go into the jungle to hunt too. The loggers, as you know, make good money. They are ever willing to spend quite a bit in pursuit of their hobby.

  10. #10 by Taxidriver on Tuesday, 15 September 2009 - 8:27 pm

    correction: Sexual abuses………..

  11. #11 by Jong on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 - 7:51 am

    Arrest all those suspect-rapists! What is the IGP and his PDRM waiting for?

    They are never slow when it comes to members of PR/political parties who are opposed to their political masters -UMNO/BN. Even the media eg Sin Chew and Malaysiakini are not spared when they report news factually with pix and video.

  12. #12 by HJ Angus on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 - 10:23 am

    First they raped the forests of Sarawak with the Bakun dam and other logging projects that deprive the Penans of their native rights.
    Not satisfied, they now rape the Penan women and children.
    As these are considered mere nuisances by the powerful leaders, the Penans could become extinct as a free people in the jungle within 30 years. They will be housed in reservations just like the aborigines of Australia.
    Meanwhile the PM is too busy with the latest glamour activity….

  13. #13 by Voter on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 - 11:02 am

    1 Malaysia F1 Team, another corruption project launched

  14. #14 by tslckk2000 on Wednesday, 16 September 2009 - 11:11 pm

    As a citizen of Malaysia, I’m concerned what is happening to the Penan. Think! what would happen if your staying place being intruded, your children and women being raped and your house or property being bull dozed?
    Recently this is what the respond of all the timber company .. “They do not condoned to raping crime among their companies and they urge the police to take action”.
    Is that all!!. I think all the logging companies involved should bring the culprits to the police whether the culprits already resigned(after hearing a lot of protest by public from Malaysia and oversea) or not yet.
    To the police I like to suggest to take DNA samples of the culprits and match with the poor victims. Don’t have to wait until concrete evidences provide by someone else.
    To the state government, please take this matter seriously and act upon it. Please do it with sincerity and without any cover up. As this is the matter of great sin that had been done to the people of Penan for so long. Do you have conscience and know what is the meaning of SIN?
    If you have conscience, you may know that GOD is indeed angry with this kind of crime. God always defend the weak and the helpless!. Do you want to wait and not resolve the issue until God Himself will punish you ?
    Don’t you know now the public read a lot of this news and feel disgust. Not only the rakyat feel disgusting but the world too. Please read this website :
    This is the world responded to our Malaysian Government. it already 2,119 people from 71 countries have sent 43,931 protest emails!!! .The world is watching us.

    I hope Malaysia will act fast on this matter and not sweep the problem under the carpet. Show to the world that we are the caring society and always protect and defend the helpless,the poor and the uneducated. This is what pleases God.

  15. #15 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Thursday, 17 September 2009 - 10:49 pm

    anak raja lawan anak raja
    awal pagi pagi pulak tu patutnya time tidur tapi depa enjoy kat kelab malam terkemuka
    aduhai…khabarnya lepas tu anak raja yang sorang tu keluar kan pistol… ada pulak polis repot…tapi tak da tindakan… apa ke jadah nya oiii ketua polis negara… orang pegang lilin kau tangkap yang ni kau buat bodoh ke… kecut ? telo kat dahi ?

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