The issue of rape of Penan girls and women have been raised since 1980s, mostly at that time by an environmental activist from Switzerland, Bruno Manser. For Sarawakians who follow the issue concerning the Penans, the name Bruno Manser is surely too familiar. Being a Sarawakian, I sometimes feel quite ashamed that someone coming all the way from Europe had to stand up for the Penans – where are all the Sarawakians? Bruno Manser was so avid in helping the Penans, that the Penans nicknamed him “Lakei Penan” (Penan Man). During the period of 1980s – 1990s, Bruno Manser had already been attacking the logging companies over their disturbance of the Penan community, and had been voicing out the sufferings of the Penans. Alas, Bruno Manser’s efforts was vehemently denied by the state government – in order to cover up any negative news on Sarawak – and Bruno Manser was soon missing since 2000, when he was last seen in the forests of Bario, Sarawak.
Now, it’s 2009 and (finally!) the federal government has started to take action in order to defend the Penans. The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development has released the federally sanctioned report on the sexual abuse of Penan women and girls. Surely this report should be strong reason and basis for serious and formidable actions to be taken. However, I was literally ‘shocked’ and ‘angered’ by the response given by the Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, Tan Sri Alfred Jabu. Reading the newspaper report, my response was simply this: it’s another case of disgusting arrogance! Arrogance of politicians is nothing new; and it’s getting more and more disgusting.
Hopefully the arrogance of a few, will not stop those who are really serious in serving the people and who are being fair to themselves and to others from helping out the Penans and giving them the protection and assistance which has been long overdue.