The Penan – Still Struggling to Save Our Jungle [FILM TRIBUTE]

The Penan – Still Struggling to Save Our Jungle [FILM TRIBUTE]

16 Oct 2011

This post is also available in: Iban, Malay

The Penan are the iconic people of the Sarawak jungle.  Most communities had settled into villages and rural life of one form or another over the last hundred years, but the Penan steadfastly stuck to their nomadic ways.

With just a few possessions, easily carried on their backs, they have had nothing to lose but the jungle they live from.  Which is why they are the community that has fought hardest and longest to prevent its destruction by greedy and relentless logging.

However, we would be unwise to dismiss them as simple or backward people.  One should reserve that judgement for those narrow-minded, unimaginative IQs who can think only of the ringgit and jewels and houses they can buy from cutting it down.

The Penan understand the deeper value of the Borneo jungle, the world’s oldest and most bio-diverse environment on earth.  If Taib had not been so eager to get rich as quickly as possible, he too would have done well to consider the pharmaceutical, DNA, tourism, scientific and other values of this region of enormous weatlh, variety and promise.

Instead he is turning it into a single crop plantation that will soon run out of soil due to to massive erosion and turn to desert.  He is also converting one of the earth’s two key ‘lungs’, the great jungles that breath water into the air and suck out dangerous carbon dioxide, into on of the major causes of Global Warming.

The Penan understand these things, even though few have gone to school, and they hold a deep love for the beauty and life that thrives in their paradise on earth.  But, Taib either does not understand or worse, blinded by money, he doesn’t care.

Victims who refuse to give up

It is because the Penan are still striving to live off the forest and to defend their hunting areas, that they have had some of the worst treatment at the hands of Taib’s licenced loggers and unlicenced gangsters.  Many, many communities in Sarawak have suffered from these problems, but it is the Penan who have been almost wiped out in numbers.

Taib refuses to give them the slightest respect or to allow them the smallest remaining area of jungle to call their own.  His ministers are on record as saying that the jungle needs to be ‘cleared’ of such communities (to make way for their rape of the environment of course).  For this reason we can add genocide to the list of crimes this man will one day have to answer.

One of the most shocking examples of his arrogant small-mindedness has been his refusal to perform his most basic duty as a Chief Minister in maintaining law and order and preventing vile crimes in these areas.  There have long been reports of rapes by loggers against the gentle Penan tribespeople, yet he has refused to take action to protect them or to acknowledge the problem.

As ever, his police force has been instructed to turn a blind eye to such outrages for the benefit of the logging tycoons – Taib’s business partners who are working to drive the native people from the jungle.

Likewise, over 30 years of relentless exploitation Taib has gained vast wealth from taking the timber from Sarawak, yet the Penan have received no benefit, despite the Chief Minister’s clap-trap about progress and development.

In all this time he has yet to even provide the majority of them with an Identity card or in many cases even birth certificates, so that they can participate in any way in the benefits of the State.  Few indeed have received their fundamental right of a vote in what he laughably tries to call a democracy.

To the contrary, Taib knows that the Penan would vote against him, so he pretends they live too far away for him and his officials to find and register them.

There is no such problem it seems when it comes to finding and taking the trees from among which they live however!

This film is a testimony to the Penan’s continuing struggle and gives one reason for the work that has been undertaken by Sarawak Report.



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  • Shaking Steven

    Guts and determination by the Penan.Please use your blow pipes and now is the time to use them.No more animals and birds as they are being chased away or taken by TM's crony and dogs.So now is the time to use your poisonous blow pipes,the much feared weapon as it has NO sound unlike guns.

    The time is NOW Penan,use them

  • terataib

    What to expect from The Ghoul of Sarawak? I just can't wait the day mother earth swallow him.

  • Blunt Speaker

    If I were a penan, I would have used the blowpipe against the loggers, gangsters and even Taib, at the slightest opportunity. It's not easy to detect or catch a penan in the jungle because they are so well adapted to their environment and can conceal themselves well in the foliage and thicket. This Taib's monstrous greed is incomprehensible, and his evil, only Satan can match. We must pray for God's intervention to save Sarawak and its people, especially the penans, from this devil of a CM, with his power of darkness and his cronies. Light will triumph over darkness and good over evil! Let all the ugly truths of this excessively greedy, lustful and evil man be exposed for the world to see!

  • aborium

    The Penans may be illiterate, but they have more cow sense and greater insights into sustainable living than many modern folks do, including the minister of natural resources. They only take from the forests the resources they need to live and survive.

    The Penans are exemplary custodians of the environment. We can't say the same of the present government whose goal is to exploit the Penans and their forests to the fullest till trees disappear, ecosystem fracture, and rivers run dry.

    Mother Nature is treated as if she were a non-depleting resource. They only see money growing on trees – how tragic! The greed, gluttony, and self-gratification are there for us to see in the mindless exploitation and destruction of the environment and its limited resources.

    Is success in life is to be measured by one's wealth, status and worldly possessions and gain these at whatever costs? How insipid and narrow-minded!

    But, surely one of his greatest crimes is to impose his politics and socio-cultural values on to others whose cultures, customary values, and ways of thinking and doing differ from his.

    Like Alice's trip through the looking glass, when we look at other cultures different from ours, we're also holding up a mirror to ourselves.

    At day's end, how well we treat the Penans is the true mirror or reflection of our worth as a human being!

  • Angela

    This is a wonderful film. Please update us on whether that necklace gets to Prince William!

  • Shaking Steven

    Did the world see the pic? Please help us GREENPEACE, initiate HEAVY CARBON TAX..tell the Japanese that tropical timber from Sarawak are extracted at the native expanse.Please Japs,take a good look at the pictures and you will shed tears if you are human being unless you are monkeys.

    Heavy Carbon Tax for Sarawak Timber please!!

  • Ollergzella

    A very touching film indeed. May God bless abundantly the nature-loving Penans, and the CM Taib be swallowed soon for his greediness and very inhumane act. I don't understand why for thirty years, with all his evil acts, he's still rooted to his seat. Wake up Sarawakians, collect the unwanted logs and burn his seat once and for all and don't let even his dust sit on it.

    I would like to get an update as well whether that necklace gets to Prince William.

  • http://nil Leithaisor

    What has become of Najib's statement that Taib will step down after the Sarawak state polls?

    Whether it is true the account which floated around saying that the rather unusual joint mission by Najib and Muhyiddin was to get Taib to step down in short order, Najib in the end had to waffle out a "soon" timeframe when pressed for an answer. Does not exactly inspire confidence at all.

    Given the enormity of Taib's deeds and the resultant widespread suffering of so many, especially that of our brother citizens in the far rural areas, I can appreciate the sentiments of those who opine that they cannot wait for the day mother earth swallows him.

    But that is not soon enough a day for Taib's excesses to end; that day is long overdue.

    As it stands, with his continued defiance of Najib, the entrenched powerful and ruthless political machinery at his disposal, and funds – both public and personal – which may be tapped, Taib may well hang on for a long, long time, or if he steps aside (not really "down"), he may successfully install a compliant puppet / proxy in his stead.

    And before the mother earth swallows him and he has to face the Almighty, Taib should be made to answer in a proper court of law for his (mis)deeds.

  • dayak thinker

    The dayaks have to be headhunters again to correct this abuse and torture.

  • aborium

    We've been told that Taib and his cronies have committed no crimes and that they acted within the laws. Or so it seems, when laws are crafted and enacted to work for their benefits. We now put it to you to tell us whether or not they are innocent based on the following definitions and parameters:

    1. State Capture : " A situation where powerful individuals, institutions, companies or groups within or outside a country use corruption to shape a nation’s policies, legal environment and economy to benefit their own private interests."

    2. Political Corruption: "Manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers, who abuse their position to sustain their power,status and wealth"

    3. Patronage: "Form of favouritism in which a person is selected, regardless of qualifications or entitlement, for a job or government benefit because of political affiliations or connections"

    4. Nepotism: "Form of favouritism based on acquaintances and familiar relationships whereby someone in an official position exploits his or her power and authority to provide a job or favour to a family member or friend, even though he or she may not be qualified or deserving"

    5. Money Laundering: "The process of concealing the origin, ownership or destination of illegally or dishonestly obtained money by hiding it within legitimate economic activities"

    6. Grand Corruption: "Acts committed at a high level of government that distort policies or the central functioning of the state, enabling leaders to benefit at the expense of the public good"

    7. Fraud: "To cheat. The act of intentionally deceiving someone in order to gain an unfair or illegal advantage (financial, political or otherwise). Countries consider such offences to be criminal or a violation of civil law"

    8. Embezzlement: "When a person holding office in an institution, organisation or company dishonestly and illegally appropriates, uses or traffics the funds and goods they have been entrusted with for personal enrichment or other activities."

    9. Conflict of Interest: “A situation where an individual or the entity for which they work, whether a government, business, media outlet or civil society organisation, is confronted with choosing between the duties and demands of their position and their own private interests.”

    10. Collusion: “A secret agreement between parties, in the public and/or private sector, to conspire to commit actions aimed to deceive or commit fraud with the objective of illicit financial

    gain The parties involved often are referred to as ‘cartels’.”

    11. Clientelism: “An unequal system of exchanging resources and favours based on an exploitative relationship between a wealthier and/or more powerful ‘patron’ and a less wealthy and weaker ‘client’.”

    Need more? Coming Soon : Next Change.

  • Amy

    As a woman listening to this story I cannot sit back and watch young girls be treated this way. Something that everyone is entitled to the world over is basic human rights….when this is taken away, what have you left? I have immense respect for the Penan who have been brave enough to tell their story. You can guarantee there are many others who are too frightened to speak up. An incredibly touching story, thank you Clare.

  • bucklynn rimbar

    wat if we ask the penan to jus drive them out of thier homes cos they got it from the ill gotten timber from the forest wic belongs to the penan.hahaha…a tooth for a tat….maybe the hudud is a gud law after all u see all their hands chop off…..especially all those whose accept bribes…..

  • Mahmud

    Taib Mahmud, The Evil Son of Mahmud had Destroy .. Merosakkan Segala Hutan Asal di Bumi Sarawak. This is The Biggest and Ever SIN by Taib Mahmud, the Evil Son of Mahmud … Taib Mahmud is Evil of People and Nature … Of the World …


    let there be divine intervention.

  • Timpang

    Have not come to my tears drop for so many-many years. But tonight while watching this film, without realising a few tears drop by on my desk. It’s Great….TQ for making the film. For 30 yrs Sarawak natives have been suffered & raped. Thank you , Sarawak Report for highlighting what is happening deep in the jungle where eyes have not seen, nor ears heard the sorrow and pain of these peace loving people. Definetly not fault of their own, they were persecuted for their livinghood and believes. We salute your bravery, love and respect for you all bro’s & sis’s in Christ.

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