Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu made some claims about the Penan while lashing out at NGOs. He said the NGOs were taking advantage of the plight of the less than three per cent of the Penan population who were still nomadic. This excerpt from the Borneo Post:

“They (negative NGOs) are living off the misery of the few, and manufactured lies. This is what we must fight.

“I have known the Penan community for more than 40 years. They are striving for advancement. Only less than three per cent are still nomadic.

“And it is this three per cent that the negative NGOs speak up for. Is this a fair representation when we have another 97 per cent of Penans who have settled down?” he asked.

He said most of the Penans were successful people after they had followed government programmes to get them out of poverty.

He said the role model for the Penans was entrepreneur Datuk Hasan Sui while the role model for the Penan villages was the one at Suai in Ulu Niah where most of its residents were driving twin-cab 4WDs.

“As the Penans are members of the Dayak community, I do not want to see them being exploited,” he said.

And now the reality, which I learnt from a reliable source:

The release of the federally sanctioned report on the sexual abuse of Penan women and girls has prompted contrasting reactions from Sarawak government leaders.

Take a look at the Borneo Post, which reports that Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu, who had not seen the official report, took a swipe at the messengers, the “negative NGOs”, while casting aspersions on the contents:

Doubts over KL Penan rape report
By Churchill Edward

Jabu says negative NGOs could have a hand in federal government finding

KUCHING: Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu yesterday questioned the credibility of a government report about allegations of rape of Penan women.

Although he has not seen the actual report from a special task force set up by the federal government as of yesterday, he believed negative non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could have a hand in it.

Samy Vellu’s men might have swept the top posts in the MIC party elections, but the future of race-based politics and parties remains distinctly bleak.

Leaving aside the lack of renewal in the party’s top leadership, the reality is that race-based parties are catering to a shrinking “market”, despite the best attempts of politicians to whip up ethnic sentiment. Thus, we now see attempts to use religion for political mileage. All this at great cost to unity.

6 3

A morning blaze in a kampung off Mengkuang Road in Butterworth

Fire in a kampung

From a distance, grey plumes
Darken the morning sky,
Someone’s in trouble,
Someone’s home is ablaze.

Passers-by gawk in awe,
Fire-fighters frustrated,
As hoses run dry,
Valuable moments lost.

A study for the World Health Organisation has provided evidence of how the gap between the rich and the poor affects individual and collective mental health. It shows how the gap causes psychological and physiological changes that affect the mental health of individuals. The report also argues that the mental health component is important in analysing broader health and social issues.

(The study should be seen in conjunction with another study “The Spirit Level”, which revealed that a wider income gap leads to a higher incidence of social ills. Think of the rising crime rate, etc in Malaysia.)

Malaysia has one of the widest income inequalities in the region – and so it’s not surprising that a Bernama report shows that mental health cases are on the rise in the country. Maybe that is why we see so many Malaysians displaying all manner of strange behaviour, whether on the roads or even in Parliament or the Perak State Assembly!

Mental Illnesses Among Malaysians On The Rise

KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 (Bernama) — Mental illnesses has been on the rise in the country, with more individuals seeking treatment for problems ranging from mild anxiety disorders to severe schizophrenia.

According to health ministry statistics, last year saw 379,010 individuals treated as psychiatric outpatients in government hospitals, as compared to 324,344 in 2007.


“Please help us”: Some of the villagers who are not sure what to do next – Photo by Anil Netto

Villagers in a dozen households next to the St Francis Xavier’s Church face uncertainty after receiving three letters over the last year from lawyers acting on behalf of the Catholic Church in Penang.

The residents had been ordered to vacate their premises by 31 May 2009 (which happens to be Pentecost Sunday, marking the coming of the Holy Spirit). In the latest letter of 19 May 2009, they have been granted a second extension until 31 May 2010 on “humanitarian grounds”, provided they agree in writing to compensation of RM10,000. If not, they have to vacate their homes by this Sunday.

The lawyer’s letter states the church can afford to provide only RM10,000 as it is a “non-profit religious institution”. Lay Catholics, however, are not in a position to judge whether the church can afford to pay more as its diocesan accounts are not made public to them as a matter of course.

Allow me to introduce you to some of the villagers the church wants to evict (see photo above, from left):

Augustin Martin, 82, raised at the nearby orphanage in the early 1930s. He was a church organist during World War II and worked as a driver for the Kee Huat company in his younger days. Occupant of house no. 52-E.

Arokiasamy Dass, 84, born here in 1925, former JKR tractor driver. His father arrived here around 1920 just before getting married. Occupant of house no. 52-H.

10 14

Business Times reports that Sime Darby Healthcare, the healthcare arm of Sime Darby, has teamed up with Medilink Network (PVT) Ltd of Bangladesh and Medilink (Beijing) TPA Services Co Ltd to promote medical travel from Bangladesh and China to Malaysia.

The expansion of lucrative, profit-oriented medical tourism will hurt the government-owned general hospitals, which are already experiencing a critical shortage of specialists. It will further contribute to the exodus of specialists to private hospitals from the overstretched public sector.