Extracted From Malaysiakini
No Merdeka for the Penans
Further, our native customary rights and ancestral rights to our land and forests have never been respected.
For the last decade, the government has frequently made various statements that financial assistance and facilities have been provided to us Penans to solve our problems. However, it is clear that this assistance and facilities have failed to improve our lives or livelihood and we continue to be destitute.
This statement is issued after discussions between Penan leaders, representatives and participants at a Penan community meeting held at Kampung Long Belok, Sungai Apoh, Tutoh, Baram recently. It also serves as a wake-up call to the government to pay immediate and serious heed to our problems.
Logging on our native customary land and the lack of respect for our native customary rights are currently the main problems faced by us. There is a lack of understanding of our traditional rights on native customary land and how we obtained these rights.
Lately, our problems have increased as a result of continued logging activities on our native customary land. Additionally, we regret the fact that the government has been issuing a large number of licences for plantation projects without first understanding our culture or the way we Penans live.
Besides logging, the lack of healthcare is another major concern for us. Our health has suffered as a result of air and river pollution, exposure to heat as well as the lack of nutritious food due to the depletion of forests because of logging activities. The lack of healthcare centres located near Penan areas is another factor which contributes to why some of the Penans are in constantly poor health.
Further, until today, a large number of Penans still do not possess identification documents. This is due to the high cost of travel in terms of transport to the towns to apply for these documents. Most of the births take place in the villages and this too contributes to the lack of any official records.
If this problem is not addressed immediately, there will be other problems especially when we need to register our children at schools or for other official business which require us to produce proper identification documents.
If the government is seriously concerned about our problems, then it should pay immediate attention to the following:
The writer is the
chairman of the