KUCHING, 7 Oct 2008: Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan wants a complete police investigation to be conducted on reports that Penan women were allegedly victims of sexual abuse by workers from logging camps in Baram, Miri division.
He said it was a serious allegation which was very bad publicity for Sarawak as well as Malaysia.
He said the culprits should be brought to justice if the alleged sexual abuses — including raping Penan girls hitching rides from the remote settlements to their boarding schools in Long Lama and Long San — were proven to be true.
“Let the police do a full investigation. It is important that we get to the truth of all these things because it is important that our country must not be seen as if it is a cowboy country.
“Of course things do happen and whoever [who] did the wrong thing should be brought to justice,” he told reporters after launching the logo for the state’s Fishermen, Livestock Breeders and Farmers’ Day celebration to be held here from 30 Oct to 3 Nov.
“This is criminal but we must have very firm evidence as it could portray a very bad national image,” he said when commenting on claims by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Bruno Manser Foundation (BMF), of the alleged sexual exploitation of Penan women in Baram district.
The Swiss group 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.
However, Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu recently denied the allegations and dismissed the NGO’s claims as baseless.
Meanwhile, Sarawak Commissioner of Police Datuk Mohmad Salleh was quoted as saying that the police would ascertain if there was any truth to the report.
Mohmad said that members of the public who had information on criminal activities should report it directly to the police rather than post it on the Internet as it would only complicate the investigation. — Bernama