Updated 5.20pm on 26 May 2009
KUALA LUMPUR, 26 May 2009: It remains unclear if the 2008 government-led task force report about sexual violence against Penan women and girls will be made public.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said the report has reached her desk and was ready for circulation to the other ministries. “It will be tabled in the cabinet as soon as possible,” she said today at a press conference after launching a seminar at the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim).
Later, she told The Nut Graph the report would be submitted to cabinet tomorrow.
Shahrizat Abdul Jalil
Earlier media reports had said the task force’s findings were already submitted to the cabinet in January. But Shahrizat said the report had not been presented to cabinet before.
Additionally, when asked whether the task force report would be made public, Shahrizat said: “Interested parties can come to the ministry, and we can discuss the details of the report.”
She declined to say if the report would be fully disclosed and did not comment on reasons why the ministry could not publish the report publicly.
This is the first time Shahrizat has discussed the Penan task force report since her appointment as minister in April. It has been six months since the task force completed its investigations into allegations of sexual abuse against Penan women in the interiors of Sarawak.
The Penan task force was commissioned by the ministry under former minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen in October 2008. It was despatched to investigate claims that young Penan girls and women were sexually abused by logging company employees.
Various quarters from civil society have been calling for the report’s release.
“So long as the report is not shared with the public, the Penan community continues to become more vulnerable,” Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) executive director Ivy Josiah told The Nut Graph on 20 April.
Josiah, who was part of the task force, cautioned that the government may be guilty of neglecting the Penan community by withholding the task force’s findings.
“The investigations took place and a report has been produced. The government now has a responsibility to disclose the findings to the public,” stressed Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) programme director Prema Devaraj, who was also part of the task force.
Apart from the WAO and WCC, the task force also consisted of representatives from the police, government ministries such as the home and health ministries, and at least one representative from the indigenous community.
Their fact-finding mission in the Baram district of Sarawak was concluded in mid-November 2008.
Earlier, Shahrizat, who launched the “Family Institution Facing Contemporary Challenges” seminar this morning, stressed on the importance of families in Malaysian society.
She revealed that a National Family Policy was in its final stage of preparation.
“I believe that the National Family Policy, and its Action Plan, will be brought up for consideration and approval by the government this year,” Shahrizat said.
However, she declined to offer details of the policy, saying that it was too early for details to be disclosed.