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Shahrizat keeps mum on Penan report

PETALING JAYA, 19 May 2009: It has been almost six months since the Penan task force completed its investigations into allegations of sexual abuse against women in its community. Yet, the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry continues to keep mum about when the 2008 Penan task force report will be released.

Repeated calls by The Nut Graph to its minister Dauk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s office for comment on the status of the task force report have been met with silence.

Ng Yen Yen
The task force was commissioned by the ministry under former minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen in October 2008. It was dispatched to investigate claims that young Penan girls and women have been sexually abused by logging company employees.

The findings of Penan task force have not been made public even though the report was completed and its findings submitted to the cabinet in January.

“So long as the report is not shared with the public, the Penan community continues to become more vulnerable,” Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Ivy Josiah told The Nut Graph on 20 April.

Josiah, who was part of the task force, cautioned that the government may be guilty of neglecting the Penan community by withholding the task force’s findings.

“The investigations took place and a report has been produced. The government now has a responsibility to disclose the findings to the public,” stressed Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) programme director Prema Devaraj, who was also part of the task force.

“The public have a right to know the outcome of the investigation, and what the government plans to do with regards to the information in the report,” Prema added.

A Penan mother and child (Pic by tajai @ flickr)
Apart from the WAO and WCC, the task force also consisted of representatives from the police, government ministries such as the home and health ministries, and at least one representative from the indigenous community.

Their fact-finding mission in the Baram district of Sarawak concluded in mid-November. Since then, no action has been taken, and the ministry has kept mum on the subject.

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