KUALA LUMPUR, 17 Sept 2009: The Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) has strongly denied any hidden agenda in calling for concrete action to be taken against the rape of Penan women and girls, as implied by Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil.
In a statement today, the WAO stressed that it was part of its responsibility as a women’s rights group to call for action to be taken to protect the marginalised Penan community.
“The independence and autonomy of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to highlight issues affecting its citizens must be respected,” the statement said.
The statement was in response to news reports quoting Shahrizat regarding a 16 Sept 2009 demonstration in Putrajaya by NGOs including the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) on the sexual abuse of the Penan.
Shahrizat, who is women, family and community development minister, was reported as saying she was “shocked” that WAO executive director Ivy Josiah was involved in the demonstration, as Josiah was part of the government task force sent to investigate the rape allegations.
The WAO, however, disagreed with the implication that since it was involved in the task force, it should not have been part of the protest.
“Upon the completion of the task force report in December 2008, our responsibility was then to ensure that the report was made available to the authorities to act promptly and also to the public for accountability purposes,” it said.
“The citizen’s protest (on 16 Sept) was spearheaded by JAG and aimed at highlighting the lack of action by authorities towards the plight of the Penan. The WAO is a coalition member of JAG,” it added.
JAG also comprises five other Malaysian women’s rights groups.
The WAO also clarified that contrary to media reports, Josiah was not present at the 16 Sept protest in Putrajaya.