Archive for October 2008

Sim Kwang Yang | Oct 25, 08

The brief uproar over the alleged rape of Penan school girls in the national media has died down, while the white-wash campaign in the Sarawak media continues unabated.

Recently, Sarawak Police Commissioner Mohamad Salleh reportedly  said that a four-man team under his supervision went to Baram to start investigations. He announced that the team would investigate an alleged rape in 1994. He said, “Although the incident took place 14 years ago, I want to assure the public that are will investigate without fear or favour”.

I remember that old case well, as I was directly involved in having the police report lodged-at the central police station (CPS) in Kuching.

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This is a photo taken of one of the exhibits by Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI). Click on image to enlarge.


Investigating Officers threaten using different threat methods. Among them:

– Detainee is forced to contain in two separate plastic bags, their own faeces and urine. After that they are threatened to choose to either eat their faeces or drink their urine, if they are unwilling to make the confession.

Note: Illustration is based on a statement by the detainee involved, and is willing to take an oath by the name of Allah and the Quran.

As a Human Rights Defender and social activist, there’ll be many a time when you feel burnt-out, just wanna give up. With all the mammoth efforts and sacrifices that you’ve made, things just doesn’t seem to work the way we want it to be. When the going gets tough, please remember what Mother Teresa said,

God doesn’t require us to succeed; he only requires that you try – Mother Teresa

Haris Ibrahim from People’s Parliament posted this beautiful piece by Kipling called…


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling

Thirteen independent experts of the UN Human Rights Council issued the following statement at the start of Dignity and Justice for Detainees Week — a global initiative launched by the High Commissioner for Human Rights — which takes place from 6-12 October 2008:

GENEVA — “We strongly support the High Commissioner’s initiative on improving respect for the human rights of detainees. As mandate holders of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, we visit places of detention in many countries and receive information from all around the world. A serious problem we encounter is that often there are no proper records of those deprived of liberty, or, worse, they are held in places of detention that are not officially recognized. It is also of great concern that many people should not be deprived of their liberty at all, since their detention is arbitrary. Others are being detained solely on the basis of administrative orders unrelated to the criminal justice system, for example irregular migrants. Deprivation of liberty as such, whether lawful or not, makes persons extremely vulnerable to a broad range of human rights violations.

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Yesterday, the world remembered in a special way, International Rural Women’s Day.

human trafficking tip report 131607 prostitute heldRural women around the world contribute to 60 percent of labour and tasks in agriculture production. Yet, they remain the poorest and most marginalised and exploited group.

The rural woman remains invisible and isolated as she is seen as an ‘informal’ agriculture worker or as part of collective family labour.
In Malaysia, recent reports highlighting the plight of Penan women reveal the real struggles of indigenous peoples to protect their land, livelihood and dignity of their communities.

penan baram women sexual abuse by loggers 220908 05The alleged rape of the women and consequent denial of such incidents by the Sarawak government reflects how the state works in collusion with rapists involved in logging, to create fear in the community to get rid of them from their lands.  

The rural and indigenous women of Sarawak are struggling against the rape of both their bodies and of their land.
The theft of the indigenous people’s land to pave the way for pure profits – through conversion and control of land for logging and cash crops especially oil palm – is an organised threat to food security of the rural communities and Malaysians as a whole.

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“The Penans in Silat River didn’t eat chicken. Poultry was reared but only killed and cooked for their non-Penan guests to eat. Animal raised by the Penans were looked upon as member of the household. Sidi told me a fowl is a pet and Penans don’t eat pets. No argument.” – Christhoper K. Knight

Penan and a big snake
By Christhoper K. Knight

“O Penan – Jungle wanderers of the Tree
What would the future hold for thee?….
Perhaps to us you may appear deprived and poor
But can Civilization offer anything better?….
And yet could Society in good conscience
View your plight with detached indifference
Especially now we are an independent Nation
Yet not lift a helping hand to our fellow brethren?
Instead allow him to subsist in Blowpipes and clothed in Chawats
An anthropological curiosity of Nature and Art?
Alas, ultimately your fate is your own decision
Remain as you are – or cross the Rubicon!”
– By Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min

“Tei hinok kelok, sebile’ek?” asks the Kayan in his dialect as a small group of Penans crosses the stream.

“Melakau tong tana ju,” replied the Penan in his dialect.

“Su ya?”

“Juu, juuuuuuuu. Kelap penusah tana,” a Penan elder said regretfully. The Penans continue walking. Never again they come this way.

In English: Where are you going, brother? Walking to the far land. Is it far? Far, farrrrrrrrrr. Away from destroyer of land.

By ‘destroyer of land’ they meant bulldozers, excavators, chainsaws, 18-wheelers and loggers. It meant the destroyers had ate into their territory, muddying the rivers where fish are aplenty, disrupting hunts in the jungle where untamed animals live in abundance, altering the sensitive eco-system, forcing the Penans to abandon their homes in search of source of livelihood elsewhere, somewhere juuuuuuuuuuuu. The longer the juu the farther is that somewhere.

This article is not about Sarawak’s politics of development, for I am not smart enough to break the arguments of corrupt politicians. Neither I am smart enough to relate the Penans to environmental science or global warming or the plight of indigenous tribes around the world. But I’ve been with the Penans for a while. What they did not show to the politicians and the activists they probably had showed it to me. This story is about a group of Penan and what a snake did to their self-belief.

The Penan world
I was only 18 when I entered the kingdom of the Penans for the first time in 1989. That was also the first time, and the only time, I knew I was taller than everyone around. With a long sleeve Adidas shirt to go with my Levi’s 501 jeans, and a flock of hair fashioned by hardening gel, I thought I was the handsomest kid in the entire world. And I was the only one among the young men with a pair of shoes. I was curious about my new fame just as the Penans were curious about this visitor who was sadly overdressed.

As a teenager accustomed to life in the city, I followed, albeit grudgingly, a group of Christian missionaries to venture into the depth of rainforest in Upper Baram that year when the Penan Armageddon was already looming. The group, led by my father, a reverend affiliated with Ambassador for Christ International based in the U.S.A, intended to minister to the hundreds of Penans in Silat River, a tributary of Ulu Baram. That’s three days journey by boat from Miri.

The group was crazy about the Penans; my craziness was locked in the city. My father is religious; I was not. After a short argument between us, the Christian won. They needed me only to play guitar in the church every morning; after that, I can return to my ‘rebellion’ in the longboat.

The Penans came by the hundreds to converge on a small riverside village, Long Jekitan, for the two-week long seminar. The host village provided shelters for the travelling Penans from a number of villages in that area. While the women folks prepared food and did household chores, the men took turn to hunt animals for food in the woods nearby or fish in the river. Much to the joy of the missionaries, the Penans seemed trained for event management such as this. The seminar, now turning into some kind of a jamboree, was already in a good coordination right from the first day.

Everyone in that gotong-royong community knew their roles, except me. Unlike my father, I couldn’t even understand a Penan word. So, by the river I indulged in my boredom. As I slowly came to term with my ordeal, I crawled out of my idleness and started to befriend the Penans.

The Penans, as it turned out, were very friendly, cordial and sincere with what they meant. As I came to learn more about them later, I realized they could be the best of friend one can have owing to the fact they cannot hold grudges against friends. They often initiated the move to make nice. They may not used to the word ‘sorry’ but when they volunteer to do things for you to effect a similar purpose they surely can win you over.

The Penans are the type of persons who, although they can exaggerate, almost cannot tell lies to anyone. I guess they don’t know how to become someone else and I’m glad they didn’t try.

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Occupation and terrorism, at home
October 9, 2008, 1:39 am
Filed under: Films, Media Reports
by Jules Ong

A review of the 36-minute documentary by Hilary Chiew and Chi Too

What Environment? It’s occupation and terrorism.

I watched What Rainforest? and immediately felt that it should not be called an ‘environmental’ documentary. But it was conveniently lumped under environment at its debut showing at the 2008 Freedom Film Festival recently.

As environmental issues become mainstream, its messages becomes simplified and stereotyped…. and boring. Add the indigenous people, and the Hollywood theme of Guardian of the Rainforest gets even more tiresome.

Here goes – Primitive but wise with the way of the jungle, the indigenous people fight a losing battle against modern development to protect their way of life and identity. How heroic. How sad.

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Sunday, 12 October 2008 08:55am
(The Print Collector/ Alamy)

(The Print Collector/ Alamy):: King John signing Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215.

©New Sunday Times (Used by permission)
by Roger Tan

ABOUT 800 years ago, there lived a bad king in England. His name was King John.

King John was not only ruthless but greedy as he extracted extortionate taxes from his people. He even killed his own nephew, Arthur, in 1206 and imprisoned Arthur’s sister Eleanor to secure his throne, which he ascended on April 6, 1199.

Though he managed to quell the Welsh Uprising of 1211, his position was much weakened after he was excommunicated by Pope Innocent III in 1207 when he challenged the latter’s choice of Archbishop of Canterbury. When he lost in the 12-year War of Bouvines (1202-1214) with King Philip II Augustus of France while trying to reclaim Normandy in the Battle of Bouvines on July 27, 1214, his barons turned against him.

Today, John is perhaps better known as an enemy of the outlaws headed by the archetypical hero of English folklore, Robin Hood. But Winston Churchill best described John’s legacy as follows:

“When the long tally is added, it will be seen that the British nation and the English-speaking world owe far more to the vices of John than to the labours of virtuous sovereigns.”

How true indeed because we lawyers would always recall this date, June 15, 1215 — the day the barons and John met at Runnymede, near London, and there in a meadow, John attached his royal seal on an agreed document called the Great Charter of Liberty or better known as Magna Carta in Latin.

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Penan women denounce sexual abuse by loggers

September 16, 2008, 6:34 am
Filed under: Indigenous People, Logging, Media Reports

Media Release
Bruno Manser Fund, Basel/Switzerland
15 September 2008

Serious charges against Malaysian companies Interhill and Samling related to sexual violence – Malaysian government asked to open a formal enquiry on offences.

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Penans Are Only Human And They Are Being Terrorised By Taib’s Occupation Forces

Penans not ‘noble savages’ but our fellow (human) beings
By Sim Kwang Yang

2008-10-10 | The political, cultural, and journalistic climate in Malaysia has improved after all, and the long suffering Penans begin to attract national attention.

While I was the sole opposition MP in Sarawak, I began to take on the lonely cause of fighting for the indigenous people of my homeland. There was massive infringement then of their land rights, first from loggers, and then from the plantations.

No newspaper in Sarawak dared carry any of the news and press statements because of their fear of Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud. He was and still is the big patron behind the loggers, the plantation companies, and most other big businesses, including those that owned the newspapers.

The national press was also not in the least interested in this issue for reasons best known to themselves. Massive numbers of the native people in Sarawak suffered untold misery of dislocation and marginalisation in silence for decades.

In sharp contrast, when I toured Europe to lobby for the anti-logging platform in the early 90s, including an appearance in the European Parliament, I discovered to my delight that the plight of the Penans was the cause celebre for the green politicians and NGOs there.

I had to conclude that foreigners had more empathy with my indigenous brethrens in Sarawak than Sarawakians and Malaysians elsewhere. My fellow citizens in my own country – especially those in the urban centres – were too obsessed with the issue of race to develop their ultimate concern for citizens of other ethnic origins.

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FREE ALL ISA DETAINEES "The land belongs to the countless numbers of people who are dead, the few who are living and the multitude of those yet to be born". child2