“I want to bring women and family issues into the mainstream and I am not apologetic about them. I don’t see them as soft issues and I am proud to advocate them.”
Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, campaigning for the Wanita Umno chiefdom before the party’s 59th general assembly. (Source: Shahrizat out to bring change, The Star, 16 March 2009)
Shahrizat was the women, family and community development minister during former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s first term. She was replaced by Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen in March 2008 during a cabinet reshuffle. Shahrizat reprised the ministership in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s new cabinet in April 2009.
“We in the ministry will make every effort to protect the Penan women and girls.”
Then Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen, who commissioned a task force to investigate allegations of sexual abuse against Penan women and girls in Sarawak. (Source: Task Force To Probe Allegations Of Sexual Abuse Of Penan Women, Bernama, 7 Oct 2008)
The issue first came to light in a media release by the Bruno Manser Foundation on 15 Sept 2008. It alleged that Penan women from the Middle Baram area of Sarawak were being sexually harrassed and raped by logging company employees.
The task force concluded its investigations in mid-November.
“Interested parties can come to the ministry, and we can discuss the details of the report.”
Now Women, Family and Community Development Minister Shahrizat, on how the Penan task force’s findings could be accessed. Shahrizat revealed that the report would be tabled in the cabinet on 27 May 2009. (Source: Unclear if Penan report will be public, The Nut Graph, 26 May 2009)
Since her statement, Shahrizat has kept silent on what actions the government plans to take to address the issue. It has been nearly eight months since the allegations of sexual violence against Penans first surfaced.
Civil society groups, including those whose representatives were part of the Penan task force, believe that partial disclosure of the report is inadequate. “It is imperative that the government makes public the Penan task force report,” Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Ivy Josiah has said. “They owe it to the Malaysian public.”
See also: The terror of government silence