Sarawak top politician under fire over Penan rape scandal
Picture: Sarawak's political leadership has come under fire over its handling of the Penan rape scandal. From left to right: Deputy Chief Minister George Chan, Chief Minister Taib Mahmud, Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu.
Following the release of a Malaysian government report that confirmed systematic sexual absue of indigenous girls and women by loggers in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, the state’s political leadership is increasingly being criticized over its failure to handle the sensitive issue in an appropriate way.
On Saturday, Sarawak’s Deputy Chief Minister, Alfred Jabu, has been asked to resign by the oppositional Democratic Action Party (DAP) “for his incompetence” to deal with the issue. Jabu, who is in charge of Penan affairs by virtue of his position as Minister of Rural Development, has repeatedly refused to acknowledge that Penan girls were sexually abused and raped by timber workers.
In a Borneo Post interview published on 12 September 2009, Alfred Jabu insinuated that the Federal government’s report was being manipulated by “negative NGOs” although he admitted to not having seen the report published three days earlier by a National Task Force under the leadership of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.
While the Malaysian Mirror commented that Jabu appeared to be “in self-denial” over the report and tagged him as “the odd man out on this serious issue”, Sarawak DAP State Assemblywoman, Violet Yong, asked Jabu to resign. “The State government must be answerable on the issue of Penans who were confirmed raped”, Yong said, according to Sarawak Update, a local news channel. “Jabu is not close to the ground and fails to see what is happening there.”
When the Bruno Manser Fund first reported the sexual abuse cases in September 2008, Jabu said it would be “a waste of time to investigate” the Penan’s allegations. Meanwhile, the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development has called on the Malaysian Government to immediately identify, arrest and bring to court rapists and sexual rights violators of Penan girls and women of Baram, Sarawak.
(12 September 2009)