Penan’s plea to the govt: ‘Don’t forget us’

PETALING JAYA: Sarawak Baram Penan Women Association (PWPBS) is urging the federal government to look into the plight of the Penans on issues facing healthcare, education, transportation and training programmes for specific groups within their community.

The PWPBS will submit a memorandum to the federal government through the Sarawak state office which is responsible for overseeing Penan community affairs.

The group claims that Penan community affairs minister John Sikie Anak Tayai has failed to reply requests made to him to address issues pertaining to the welfare of the Penan community.

According to PWPBS chairman Jonita Ayat, the community has requested the government to build more clinics and upgrade facilities to cater to their needs.

“At present we have limited clinics and they only attend to minor injuries.

“For major illnesses our people had to visit Hospital Marudi or Hospital Miri,” Jonita explained.

Apart from healthcare, the PWPBS chairman wants the government to build schools with full facilities within the Penan community vicinity.

“The Penan children had to travel to a different area in attending school,” said Jonita.

She also pointed out that in the past, some female students were sexually harassed by timber operators whilst enroute to or from school.

“The roads used by timber lorries have been damaged and these lorries create large pot-holes resulting in less accessibility for the community,” added Jonita.

Their final demand in the memorandum states that the government should provide capacity building and training for Penan women, youth and children in entrepreneurship, special education for the illiterate and disease prevention awareness.

Penan voices are not heard

Meanwhile, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) president SM Mohamed Idris in support of the PWPBS memorandum stated that in 2002, the Sarawak Penan Association (SPA) voiced out Penan issues via Long Sayan Declaration but till today, the government has still not given a proper response.

“The demands pointed out in the memo is nothing new and the state government knows well the issues faced by (the) Penan community,” said Idris.

Excessive timber logging engaged by the state government has caused the Penan community to face enormous difficulties.

According to Idris, many NGO groups have highlighted the plight of the Penans but little attention was given to them.

He hoped that this time round the federal government will seriously look into the demands made by the group.