What is rape?
Rape, sometimes called sexual assault, is forced and unwanted sexual intercourse.Can happen to both woman and man, in most cases, women were the victims and men the predators.Men, generally are luckier, no woman wants to rape them, even if they wanted to.
Rape can occur anywhere around the globe, from the remotest village to the biggest city.Many rape cases were not reported by the victims due to stigma associated with it.Many rape victims prefer to suffer in silence rather than expose themselves to public humiliation.
To cut the story short, let's get to the objective of this article, the rapes of Penan girls in Sarawak, which has become a highly contentious issue and have embroiled the government in controversy and at loggerhead with certain NGOs.Certain quarters have accused the government of dragging its feet in investigating the case. The case was first reported by the Bruno Manser Fund, a foreign-based NGO that claimed to have corroborative evidence of such rapes. Some local NGOs have joint in the fray accusing the police of colluding with the timber companies in a cover-up.
Those still in the jungle
I, for one, would not have doubted that there have been some cases of rape of Penan girls.The thing we have to establish here is whether these rapes are systematic and organised or just normal cases of rape, induced by opportunity, in which case, the normal police report would have suffice to deal with the problems.
It is indeed perplexing that the issue has been much politicised, triggering alarm bells not only here, but internationally.Malaysians should take notes that we are now becoming famous for all the wrong reasons.From the bashing of maids to the bashing of prince's consort and the stealing of other people's culture, we certainly have come a long way getting world recognition.Malaysian NGOs are the worst kind when it comes to jumping on the bandwagon without presenting the hard facts.
Source: AFP. Penan tribes people man a blockade with banners and spears to challenge vehicles of timber and plantation companies
The forests of Borneo have always been the El Dorado, the quick journey to big money and instant wealth.The rapes of these forests have made millionaires and billionaires.On the same token, it has also reduced the less frugal to paupers.
Sabah, the pioneer rapist of the forests, not proud to say myself included ( I have turned green many years ago) but with clear conscience that I have strictly abide by the rules, have now almost exhausted its extractable commercial forests.
If one were to drive in the east coast of Sabah, from Telupid all the way to Tawau, a five-hour drive, the natural forests have completely disappeared, replaced by forests of oil palm as far as the eyes could see, a boring landscape bearing the same gifts to the beneficiaries, lots of money, but this time with more lethal outcome, the pollution of our rivers and seas.
If one have the time to visit Sukau in Kinabatangan, where most of Sabah wildlife exists, the riparian reserves have ceased to exist, taken over by oil palm trees, planted to the brink.
Now, where am I, have kind of strayed from the pertinent issue, the question of rapes in the forests of Sarawak, the poor Penan girls that were taken advantage of by the hatchet men of the rich and powerful who couldn't care less about the plight of these poor innocent girls and the police allegedly putting a lid to cover the crime.
Malaysian NGOs and opposition politicians have set ideas about our police force but yet still lodge police reports on the flimsiest of evidence.However, the police said here their investigations are hampered by victims refusal to talk.The police have also asked NGOs in Sarawak to bring witnesses, but none have done so far.In a surprising turn of event, here is a revelation by a Penan woman who said she was not raped but was tricked and forced to make a police report saying she has been raped.
Jok Jau Evong of SAM(Shabat Alam Malaysia) said the women might have been pressured to make public statements that they have not been raped or victimised.“They can easily buckle and deny being raped or victimised under these circumstances.”
They want back their habitat, their way of life.
Now, the question Mr Jok should ask is if she was raped by a truck driver or labourer working in the camp, who gave these scumbags protection from prosecution ... the employer, the police or politicians? Common sense would tells us there is absurdity in this kind of statement.Why would any employer or for that matter the police and the politician would want to shield such employer from prosecution.I am sure there must have been cases of rape in the forests but not the way the NGOs have made it out to be, the politicising of the rapes of Penan girls.
Blast from the seventies, when I was working with a logging company in Sandakan as General Manager of the company, our concession was up north of Sandakan in the Sugut/Paitan district, one of the remotest areas in Sabah those days and accessible only by sea and river.A journey that takes almost a whole day's boat's ride, first by sea and eventually navigating upstream the small Paitan river to reach our campsite usually after nightfall.
Life in the camp, depending on how one look at it... for those who love nature it could be romantic and life sails along like a breeze but as for those who don't, life could be a drudgery, a predisposition to boredom and chronic depression.The longing for the comfort of home and female company have made some camp employees taking a second wife or mistress from among the local population in nearby settlements.In this area the kampongs are not sizable but rather consist of small hamlets of shifting cultivators scattered along the river banks and using their dugouts as principal mode of transport along the rivers.This is where abject poverty were the results of conditioning of the mind rather than the fault of the individuals, being so far remove from civilisation, they do not know any better.
With the exception of a few of those allowed to bring their wives and families into the camp there are no other females in the camp.
On one occasion, on one of my monthly visits to the camp, I notice a young girl, whom I have not seen before, in the camp's kitchen helping out the cook.Out of curiosity, I enquired with the camp manager as to who she was.I couldn't believe my ears when he told me, without even mincing his words, that our cook actually bought her from her parents and she has been with him for almost a month now.At that very moment, I don't know whether to wind the watch or bark at the moon, I was flabbergasted, didn't know how to react to such outrageous piece of information, not so much of the buying of the girl but her age, to me, she looks hardly fourteen years old, which as a minor, even consensual sex, is a crime, a case of statutory rape.After gaining my composure, I asked the manager how old is she and was told she is 18 years old, has she got an identity card? No! Not many people in remote villages have identity card.So, next question, how the hell you know she is 18 if she has no identity card? The father told them so and that they took as gospel truth.
On my return to office I have to bring up the issue to the Board whether to sack the cook or let it be.Decision was made to remove him but that would have to wait until my next visit to the camp as the only way we can communicate with our camp is through VHF radio, which is not exactly the right kind of instrument to broadcast the sacking of an employee, where not only the whole camp can hear, probably other camps operating on VHF radio can listen in to the conversation.
The hiring and firing of employees in the camp is the job of the camp manager.On my next visit to the camp another surprise was in store for me, the little girl has gone, no where to be seen.According to the manager she ran back to her parents a week after my previous visit and refused to come back to the cook. The next story is, either going to shock you or make you laugh, the cook has gone to the village to see the girl's parents to try collect his money back, claiming breach of contract, she is supposedly promised to stay with him for the whole duration of his employment at the camp.
The last I heard of him, he lost his girl, his money and his job.
These are not common occurrences but there have been instances where parents, out of hardship, traded their daughters for a fistful of dollars.There have also been instances where consensual sex become rape when one party were not happy, felt cheated by the other party, under pressure from family and friends to lodge police report.
The object of this article is not to dispute or deny that such rapes occurred in the forests of Sarawak.This kind of thing is best left to the police to investigate, instead of NGOs incessantly denigrating the government and the police for not doing their work.
If you have substantive evidence, give it to the police, don't just make noise to seek cheap publicity to promote your NGO or yourself.