Sarawak DCM shocked by claim that Penans are starving

(Bernama) – Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan was shocked over news reports about 3,000 Penans in the remote settlements in upper Belaga in the Kapit Division facing starvation due to shortage of food.

"I'm very shocked…it is impossible. If nobody helps them, the Penans can still survive in the jungle easily as they can hunt for animals and forage for edible plants," he told reporters here today.

Dr Chan was asked to comment on today's newspaper reports which quoted Rural and Regional Development Deputy Minister Datuk Joseph Entulu Belaun that famine had hit about 3,000 Penans in Belaga following crop failure in their five major settlements, and they were crying out to the government for help.

Entulu, who was with Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia and six MPs at the government-built Penan service centre in Lusong Laku early this week, said the Penans were facing starvation over the last three months, relying on tapioca, wild sago and jungle products but supply had run out.

The five settlements are Long Abit, Long Kajang, Long Tanyit, Long Malin and Long Lidem.

Meanwhile, Ulu Rejang MP Datuk Billy Abit Joo also expressed shock over the news reports, but also amusement, saying that "shortage of food does not mean the Penans are starving".

"There are about 1,000 Penans in the six settlements and they are not starving.

"The Penans have always faced food shortage due to the destruction of their food source, but this year they had poor rice harvest because the crop had been destroyed by insects and monkeys," he said.

However, Abit said the Penans' harvest could still last about seven months.

"The Penans will share their harvest, hunt for animals and look for wild sago as their staple food. They will not starve," he said.