October 5 2012
Baru tells of the unimaginable suffering of the Murum Penans
The latest exposes in the alternative media and some mainstream press on the Penan blockade of an access road to the Murum dam in Belaga district over the past few days brings home the heights of heartlessness and hypocrisy that the Barisan Nasional government has reached.
“The revelations tell of the unimaginable suffering of the Murum Penans who have been treated in the most callous and contemptible manner by the dam-building bullies and the uncaring government headed by the man reputed to be the richest man in Malaysia.
“The Penans have no choice but to create a blockade to get some attention from the authorities and civil society,” Sarawak PKR chief Baru Bian told reporters today.
He said the Penans need the support of every citizen of Malaysia who cares about justice and humanity.
“The details revealed in the ‘Resettlement Action Plan’ that was leaked tell the shocking truth about the lives of the Penans and the total neglect of them by the government that plans to wipe out the land which has been their home and provided their livelihood for generations,” Baru, who is also the State Assemblyman for Ba’Kelalan, said.
Some of the details on the lives of the Penans:
· Assistance from the government is important but it has not been regular and in some cases, zero assistance given
· They receive an average income of only RM154 per family per month, well below the official rural poverty line index of RM830 per month
· They begged for teachers for years but none were sent; less than 10% have access to education
· Women and babies still die in childbirth – no medical support
· No medical assistance and no doctors; the jungle medicines they depended on have been destroyed by logging
· No official status as no ICs, therefore no access to poverty eradication programmes
Added to the litany of woes of the Penans, Baru said is the insult of Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing who claims that they are hostile because they lack understanding, and that they were not against the project per se but they were unhappy about some of the things implemented without being properly informed.
“What is there to understand about the shameful way they have been treated?
“How would anyone of us like it if our house is destroyed, our bank accounts taken from us and our source of support obliterated from the face of the earth?
“Can we bear to watch our families suffer the indignities of poverty and the humiliation of hunger and hopelessness?
“Please do not be so blasé about the problems faced by the Penans by waving them off as a problem of communication, and pointing the finger at NGOs for instigating them.
“If anything, the NGOs should be commended for helping them to articulate their troubles as the government has preferred not to extend educational facilities to them to help uplift their lives or to help them in any other way,” Baru said.
“As for Belaga State Assemblyman Liwan Lagang, sent in to ‘explain’ matters, we shall see what he hopes to achieve at this stage of the development.
“I hope he would be a real mediator between his people and the Government of the day and be very neutral in this issue,” he said, adding that the truth must be known and be told to ensure there be a permanent solution.
Baru noted that in the Sarawak State Assembly on June 29, 2011, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud of Sarawak stated that:
“In the development of major projects including new dams, the State Government has raised the standard in the Social and Environmental Impact Assessment to be in line with the international requirement embodied in the Equator Principles and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples.
The Equator Principles are voluntary set of standards established by global financial institutions for project finance. The Equator Principles are formulated along the same line as the environmental standards of the World Bank and the social policies with the International Financial Corporation or IFC which is part of the World Bank Group and its objective is to provide loans to improve the quality of lives of people in its developing member countries.
In essence, these international standards can be seen to contain the key elements ofFree, Prior and Informed Consultation to the Proposed Action Plan, of Independent Review of Impact Assessment, of Public Discussion of the Impact Assessment and the establishment of a Grievance Mechanism.”
“The total and blatant disregard of the rights of the Penan shows again the hypocrisy of the government and their all too familiar form over substance hallmark.
“Despite what Taib proclaimed so righteously and proudly, the government is in truth completely unconcerned about implementing the recommendations of UNDRIP or the Equator principles, particularly the requirement for free, prior and informed consent prior to the commencement of development projects. How shameful this is.
“I call upon SUHAKAM to investigate the human rights abuses committed against this group of neglected people,” Baru said, calling upon the people of Malaysia to support the Penans by making contributions to the appeal for funds as they are lacking in every basic necessity and are enduring hardships on the site of the blockade.
He also called upon all right-minded people to act upon this outrage, that a group of people are on the brink of devastation because of the insatiable greed of the leaders of this state, while the MACC cries that it is unable to act against a ‘rich state leader’ due to archaic laws despite opening 6 investigation papers.
“It is obvious that nobody in this current government has the will or the desire or the moral courage to do what is right.
“The people are now recognising that this government has far overstepped the boundaries of decency and descended into the den of dam-mad depravity.
“A change of government is the only answer to the insanity that has beset this country. A Pakatan Rakyat government will restore justice to the oppressed and return to them what is rightfully theirs,” he added.