KUALA LUMPUR, 18 June 2009: The government is still unwilling to commit to making public the Penan task force report.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil continued to be noncommittal when she was asked about the findings of a task force that was set up to investigate reports of sexual violations against Penan girls and women.
“We will look into it,” Shahrizat said, when quizzed during a press conference in Parliament today.
Shahrizat reiterated her earlier position, announced in late May, that interested parties could approach the ministry to view the report.
“A request has to be put in, and we will be happy to oblige,” she said.
Women’s groups have previously called on the ministry to fully disclose the report, saying that the government “owed it to the Malaysian public” and to the Penans.
The Penan task force was commissioned by former minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen in October 2008. It was despatched to investigate claims that logging company employees were sexually abusing and raping young Penan girls and women.
After almost six months without word, Shahrizat finally revealed the ministry’s plans for the report, telling The Nut Graph on 26 May 2009 that she would submit it to cabinet.
“The cabinet was very supportive of the report,” Shahrizat said today.
She added that the government had already requested that the Sarawak government look into improving transportation and access in Penan territories.
However, the minister failed to reveal any more concrete measures the government would be taking to address the issue.
The task force’s fact-finding mission in the Baram district of Sarawak was concluded in mid-November 2008.
On another matter, Shahrizat said Wanita Umno would be pushing for 30% of party leadership positions to be reserved for women when Umno moves to amend its constitution.
“We will have a paper ready very soon,” Shahrizat said, adding that the women’s wing would submit its proposal to the party leadership following a process of consultation.
“I hope that this policy will see the light of day in Umno. It won’t be easy, but we must try,” Shahrizat said.
Her announcement follows in the wake of amendments to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR)’s constitution stipulating a similar 30% allocation for women in the party.
On 16 June, PKR Wanita chief Zuraida Kamaruddin called on the government for a clearer national women’s policy on gender representation, criticising Shahrizat for her lack of political will.
“The 30% quota was in the National Women’s Policy. It was a policy created during my first term as minister,” Shahrizat said, when asked to respond to Zuraida’s call.
“It was my policy,” Shahrizat said, adding that it was “not easy to gender-sensitise the whole country”.
Shahrizat said that she was “very happy” to see the 30% quota adopted by Opposition parties.
“As a result of a policy by the Barisan Nasional (BN), it has helped (the Opposition) to pick up on this issue,” Shahrizat said.
The terror of government silence