MIRI, 9 Oct 2008: Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Jacob Dungau Sagan wants a full investigation into allegations that Penan women and girls in Baram were being sexually abused by timber workers.
In a statement e-mailed to Bernama here today, the Baram member of parliament said he was shocked by the allegations posted recently on the Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) website and wanted the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
“I do not want to see it (the sexual abuse of Penan) happen and I am concerned over the welfare and exploitation of our people by those irresponsible groups,” said Sagan, who is currently leading a Malaysian delegation to the 31st Federation of Asean Shippers’ Council Annual General Meeting in New Delhi, India.
The BMF charged that workers from two Miri-based timber companies were preying on Penan women in the various settlements within the companies’ operation areas, and targeting female students who relied on the companies’ transportation service to get to school, which could take up to a week on foot from their villages.
The article, published online by the Switzerland-based BMF, also said there had been several incidents of pregnancy among the Penan women and girls due to the abuses, while the logging workers were also behaving like thugs and carrying arms to intimidate the community.
Sagan said that he had not been personally informed or received such reports from among the Penan community leaders on the allegations, but was saddened to hear they involved schoolgirls.
He also welcomed Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen’s recent announcement to set up a task force to check on the matter.
Yesterday, the Malaysian Bar Council together with 32 other non-governmental organisations including Women’s Aid Organisation and Suaram released a statement jointly urging Bukit Aman to head a police investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and exploitation of Penan girls and women by loggers. — Bernama