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“Penan task force report must be public”

PETALING JAYA, 27 May 2009: The task force report on sexual violence against Penan girls and women must be made public and not just disclosed partially, two women’s groups said today.

“It is imperative that the government makes public the Penan task force report,” Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Ivy Josiah told The Nut Graph. “They owe it to the Malaysian public.”

Josiah was commenting on the statement yesterday by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil that interested parties could go to the ministry to discuss the details of the report. Shahrizat had been asked if the report would be made public.

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

After almost six months without word, Shahrizat finally revealed the ministry’s plans for the report, telling The Nut Graph that she would submit it to cabinet today.

However, attempts to reach Shahrizat to confirm that the report had been submitted to cabinet today were futile.

“(When the issue first came to light), about 20 civil society groups signed a statement urging the formation of the task force,” Josiah noted.

Josiah said these 20 groups – representing women and indigenous peoples – would be reconvened to meet with the minister to discuss the task force’s findings.

“But besides having this face-to-face with civil society groups, the government has to be accountable to the Malaysian public as a whole,” Josiah said.

Josiah said WAO and WCC would be sending the ministry a formal letter to urge the government to make the report public.

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