Penan issue riddled with misconception

By Joseph Tawie, Free Malaysia Today

KUCHING: Land Development Minister James Masing has accused NGOs of getting their information based on gossips and third rate information.

“That is why we want to talk to the NGOs. We want to clear this misinformation and misconception with regards to the Penans,” he said, pointing out that the state government had nothing to hide.

“We are the government of this country and Penans are citizens of this country. It is our duty to ensure that they benefit from our development policies. And to say that we are not doing any thing for the Penans is not correct. That assumption must be corrected,” he added.

He cited an example where the government spent RM1.4 million on 46 villagers from Long Wat for their ‘pemali’ (taboos) which were affected by the Murum dam.

“We look after them. We appreciate their culture and customs and the government gives them the priority to be employed in the dam,” the Parti Rakyat Sarawak president told a press conference.

On the demand by the Penans for them to see the social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) studies, Masing said that the reports had not been completed.

There were reports previously, but those reports had to be reviewed and revised as they hac to follow international standard.

“I can assure you that the methods of implementation in the Murum dam will be much better than in Bakun dam, because what is done here was not done in Bakun,” he said.

On native customary rights land, Masing said PRS had set up a land task force to make recommendations to the government on how best to solve the problems concerning NCR land.

“NCR land problems are very important issues and party members want to know how the party can help solve such problems,” he said.

The task force, he said, would submit its recommendations through the party to the government.

The setting up of this task force followed the government’s announcement to survey NCR land in
the state that would help demarcate between the NCR land and state land.

“This will be a good start to solve the NCR problems,” Masing stressed.

He estimated that some 300,000 ha of NCR land were now under oil palm plantations, pointing out that the government had earmarked another 300,000 or more ha to be planted with oil palm.