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Penan task force completes investigations

KUALA LUMPUR, 13 Nov 2008: The special task force set up to probe the allegations of sexual abuse of Penan women is expected to return tomorrow after a five-day fact-finding mission to Sarawak.

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s public relations officer Julina Johan said: “The task force was sent to the Baram district on a fact-finding mission on 10 Nov.”

She said among the task force’s terms of reference was to investigate the allegations of sexual abuse of Penan women in the Baram district and to collect data.

The investigation will refer to earlier reports on alleged sexual abuse of Penan women by the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the Royal Malaysian Police.

Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur, who is the deputy chair of the task force, is leading the team, comprising representatives from the Penan community, Education Ministry, Home Ministry, Health Ministry and the police.

Other representatives are from the Ministry of Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage, as well as non-governmental organisations Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen announced the setting up of the task force on 7 Oct.

The move came in response to a report on 15 Sept by the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF), which amplified a long-held concern over sexual abuse of Penan women and children by timber camp workers in the Baram district.

On 1 Oct, Suhakam commissioner for Sarawak Dr Mohd Hirman Ritom said the commission will investigate the claims about timber workers sexually abusing Penan women and girls in the deep interior of Sarawak.

In a statement released on 7 Oct, 32 NGOs together with the Malaysian Bar Council claimed that the Sarawak police have done little to investigate the alleged sexual abuses which go back to 1994.

In November 1994, the Penan community lodged a police report listing 10 instances of abuses allegedly committed against their persons, property and lands, including the rape of a 12-year-old girl by Police Field Force personnel, now known as General Operation Force.

The press statement claimed that this was quickly dismissed by the police even before any investigation had taken place.

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