Rebutting Jabu’s claims about the Penan


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:

None of the communities featured in the report (by a government sponsored NGO team probing allegations of sexual abuse of Penan women and girls) are nomadic. Some were, back in the 1980s, but all are now settled communities.

True, only some 3 per cent remain nomadic, but none of the recent publicity – whether it’s about the rapes, the food shortages or the recent blockades in the Patah – has been about the nomadic Penan.

But the 3 per cent who remain nomadic are more representative of the experience and perspectives of the vast majority of the Penan than the 2 per cent in Suai. Indeed, if the state had had its way, those in Suai wouldn’t be where they are now. They had to fight and filed a suit – despite the fact that they had evidence of the area having been gazetted for them. It took a judge (Ian Chin) who advised a settlement.

The Suai group was already settled at the end of the 19th/early 20th century.

As for poverty, it’s Jabu’s imagination to think that “most of the Penans” are not in poverty. If anything, they are more impoverished today than they were: previously, they may have been cash poor and services poor, but not food poor; today, they are still cash poor, services have hardly improved, and they are having difficulties even with self-provisioning with food. The present wave of forest clearance will make them even more impoverished.

The Penan are not only exploited, they are also oppressed by the state which continues to insist on its own definition of customary land, despite court decisions to the contrary. Thus, according to the state, most Penan have little or no customary land since they didn’t clear the land before 1958.

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Samuel Goh Kim Eng
Samuel Goh Kim Eng
21 Sep 2009 3.10pm


The earth can never ever conseal
What the heaven wants to reveal
Whatever have actually transpired as deals
Regardless of what the parties involved feel

(C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 210909
Mon. 21st Sept. 2009.

anna brella
anna brella
20 Sep 2009 11.23pm

Katharina Sri (former: Noor Aza): You say that basic public infrastructure such as roads, schools and clinics are being provided by the logging companies rather than the Federal and Sarawak State Governments. That is very interesting. Do you have any proof of this allegation you make here? If true, then what happens to the budget allocations made each year from the Malaysian taxpayers’ Federal/State coffers for the maintenance and development of those Penan areas? Or are there no annual budget alloactions made for those areas (due to the contractual agreements with the logging companies specifying for the provision of these… Read more »

19 Sep 2009 10.30am

as they say GOD works in his own way, i seldom read the bottom half of malaysiakini—though sospo sentral i do but only read blogs i like. live on an island south of jb—so unable to subscribe to malaysiakini. just read an article by marina mahatter (spelling of the last name is wrong i suspect)any was proud to be honoured to be able to read that article. only got hotmail and live —-cancelled yahoo when someone crashed it. must be a cybertropper from your or my country—–last of all i wis all muslim friends selamat hari raya. ps was frasted… Read more »

Katharina Sri (former: Noor Aza)
Katharina Sri (former: Noor Aza)
19 Sep 2009 3.08am

Aliseman, the Kelabits or the Kenyahs in Long Tungan were forced to accept the logging in order to escape poverty in the first place. So, I can understand them in a way. This is how it works in that “mafia” logging/plantation corporations control of Sarawak (with the (apparent) consent of both the Fed and State govts of course!) : The basic public infrastructure such as roads, schools and clinics that should be provided by the both the Fed and State Govts are instead provided by these ruthless corporations. Thus, poor and remote villagers are at the mercy of these cororations… Read more »

18 Sep 2009 1.41pm

Noor Aza, Why are the kelabit communities pro-logging? Curious to know.

Katharina Sri (former: Noor Aza)
Katharina Sri (former: Noor Aza)
18 Sep 2009 3.03am

This Minister is talking nonsense! I was travelling to a few Penan villagers in Upper Baram who are resisting the logging/plantation corporations and found so much poverty! Unless they bowed down to the demands of these evil,greedy and ruthless corporations! Moreover, when I travelled to visit the hostel for Penan children from different communities in Long Lellang, I couldn’t believe the contempt, racism and discrimination that the Penan children (as young as seven years old) faced in the hsotel and school there. The hostel was dilapidated first of all; the children were made to sleep on wooden floors and the… Read more »

17 Sep 2009 5.44pm


Has MCMC done anything?????????????

Works all right, when I just checked. – Anil

Samuel Goh Kim Eng
Samuel Goh Kim Eng
17 Sep 2009 3.33pm


To all those who rape
Let there be no escape
People are not like grapes
Don’t treat them like apes

(C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 170909
Thur. 17th Sept. 2009.

16 Sep 2009 11.24pm

DCM Jabu spins the truth any which way his lord and Master CM Abdul Taib Mahmud wishes. Jabu is an intellectually vacuous sycophant. How else to conclude when he makes asinine statements about the Penan women victims of sex crimes without even reading the Ministry’s report? Jabu goes to Church every Sunday but on other days, he (fails to go after) rapists, and (protects) Chinese towkays and his useless Sarawak BN state government’s inaction. Garbage politician representing a garbage government.