Penan task force report “not available”

By Zedeck Siew (The Nut Graph)

PETALING JAYA, 21 Aug 2009: Despite Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil's pledge, the Penan task force report is still not available, not even to "interested parties" visiting her ministry.

Attempts by The Nut Graph yesterday — following the minister's promise to make the report available to a limited audience of "interested parties" only — to access and examine the report at the Women's Development Department (JPW) proved unsuccessful.

"It is not available now," JPW director-general Datuk Dr Noorul Ainur Mohd Nur said when met at her office, even though it's been nearly a year since reports surfaced that Penan women and girls were being sexually violated.

"I will pose this request (to access the report) to the minister, and get back to you," Noorul said, when asked why an "interested party" such as a journalist could not access the report.

On 26 May, Shahrizat, in declining to commit to making the report public, said that "interested parties" would be able to approach the ministry to discuss the details of the report.

"A request has to be put in, and we will be happy to oblige," Shahrizat had said.

The Nut Graph did notify the minister's office of its intention to view the report through her media secretary. However, this request went unacknowledged.

The Nut Graph also wrote in to Noorul two days before going to her department but only received an e-mail response to say that she would revert on the request after having a task force meeting next week.

When met yesterday, Noorul said she "hoped" to have the report available for viewing after the meeting next week.

Neither Shahrizat nor Noorul have been able to explain why the task force report, which identifies the Penan community's vulnerabilities in the Sarawak interior, cannot be made public or accessed by "interested parties".

The Penan task force was commissioned by former minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen in October 2008. It was dispatched to investigate claims that logging company employees were sexually abusing young Penan girls and women.

The task force also included representatives from women's non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as the Women's Aid Organisation (WAO) and the Women's Centre for Change (WCC).

While ten months have passed since the task force was dispatched to investigate the situation on the ground, its findings have still not been released.

This remains the case, despite calls by women's and indigenous peoples' advocacy groups for the government to make its findings public so that there can be public accountability.

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