Pakatan ‘drives’ change into Penan turf
Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim said Selangor is ‘willing to come to Sarawak’ to help bring change.
KUCHING: Twenty-nine years ago when Selangor Menteri Besar Selangor Abdul Khalid Ibrahim went to Long Lama, Sarawak to sell unit trusts to the Penan community, he was met with poor infrastructural development.
Returning to Long Lama now, he said the situation has not changed.
“Today the Penan areas and towns such as Long Lama have not changed and developed, and I feel that something has got to be done to improve its infrastructure development.
“Selangor is willing to come to Sarawak to help bring change, because it should be good for the people.
“Let us make it happen in the coming election,” he said when handing over a 4WD vehicle for use by the Penans.
The Selangor government donated RM50,000 for the purchase of the vehicle and another RM10,000 for its maintenance.
The state government of Penang also donated RM30,000 towards the purchase of the vehicle.
“This vehicle is part of the catalyst that will bring change to the Penan areas. It is part of the investment of the community for the education of their children,” he added.
He also reminded members of the Pakatan Rakyat and supporters that they have a mission and vision, that is, to change Sarawak for the better.
“We have already started to campaign for change through young people who should work very hard,” he said, pointing out that hard work is an investment for change.
Earlier in his speech, Baru Bian, chairman of the state PKR said that the purchase of the vehicle was made possible due to support from Selangor and Penang governments together with the state PKR, Penan support group and individuals.
The vehicle which is the first of its kind will be used specifically for the benefit of the deprived Penan school children, he said.
“It is a historical milestone in the struggle of the Penans as one of the most marginalized communities in Malaysia.
“We want to bring to the fore that ever since the Penans shared their stories with Malaysians and the international community of the rape and sexual exploitation of Penan women and girls in September 2008, there are still no structural changes by the government to ensure the people’s safety.
“Furthermore, some Penans have been targeted for collective punishment by logging companies which now deny transport to the villagers in retaliation for making the rape reports.
“This is a pilot project to be used to improve the desperate situation of the transportation needs of the rural poor.
“The vehicle will be used to transport Penan students from as many communities targeted by the logging companies as possible and will also be available to transport Penan villagers in critical medical emergencies to the nearest clinic and soon to be completed Long Lama Hospital.
“They will be transported for free,” Bian said, pointing out that the project is starting from the middle of Baram region.
Marginalised rural community
Acknowledging the vast areas of Baram, and the limitation of using only one vehicle. Bian called on others, especially the Sarawak government, to be partners in ensuring that the Penans and other similarly marginalized rural communities will not be denied proper schooling because of lack of transportation.
“We call on others to come forward to donate better vehicles and to help organise or manage the project as the area to be covered is huge and there is a great demand.
“We want to work with the school authorities, Sarawak government, parents and communities to ensure that safe transport is systematically available to Penan children and that lack of transport will not be a reason for Penan children to drop out of school,” Bian added.