“Penan” Are A “Petty Issue”, like Zoo Animals! – Top Malaysian ‘Diplomat’ Sparks Row

“Penan” Are A “Petty Issue”, like Zoo Animals! – Top Malaysian ‘Diplomat’ Sparks Row

10 Feb 2012

This post is also available in: Iban, Malay

"Petty" issues - this girl was raped by loggers on the way to school and left unconscious and pregnant. Taib refused to allow an investigation into this or any of the other rapes reported by the Penan.

For the first time people in the UK are beginning to wake up to the Malaysian High Commissioner, who turns out to be a fellow called Datuk Seri Zakaria Sulong.

This is because he has just made the most extraordinary series of insensitive and highly undiplomatic remarks, if a report by the Borneo Post is to be believed.

Mr Sulong apparently took the opportunity of a visit by Sarawak journalists (who of course are all forced to work for Taib controlled organisations like the Borneo Post) to cast aspersions against NGOs who are reporting human rights and enviromental problems in the state.

Petty issues?

In particular, he complained that many NGOs have been drawing attention to what he called “petty issues, like animals in zoos and the Penan in Sarawak”! [Borneo Post]

Today the Swiss-based Bruno Manser Fund, which was singled out in these complaints, expressed outrage that the problems of the Penan people and other tribes should be dismissed with such obvious racism.

BMF has responded by demanding the High Commissioner should resign:

“How can this man claim to be representing Malaysia in the United Kingdom if he compares his own people to zoo animals?”[Bruno Manser Fund]

Undiplomatic diplomat - how the High Commissioner blundered in the Borneo Post

Of course, numerous organisations and individuals have drawn attention to the appalling human rights issues, which have resulted in the virtual genocide of the Penan in Sarawak, as loggers have driven them from their jungle territories.

These organisations include BMF, Survival, Greenpeace, The Borneo Project, Friends of the Earth, Fern, Rainforest Alliance and many Malaysian groups such as Brimas, Suakam and indeed the PR opposition parties.

Petty issue? The Penan's brave fight to keep the loggers out of Sarawak's remaining 3% of virgin jungle

The Penan are just one of the many tribes in Sarawak who have found their livelihoods taken by the destruction of the rainforest.  However, because they are hunter nomads they have been one of the communities worst affected by the virtual disappearance of plants and animals.

Like other tribes the Penan have also seen their Native Customary Rights Lands taken by loggers holding permits bought from Taib Mahmud, but received no compensation and none of the promised ‘development’ that they were told timber sales and palm plantations would bring.

Worse, they have been subjected to violence and abuse by the gangsters that the timber gangs have long employed to suppress any native resistance to their clumsy destruction on the jungle.  These gangs do not restrict themselves to violence against the menfolk and people manning blockades.  There have been numerous reports of rape against the girls and women of these communities.

Compared to animals

They took our lands, so they think they can take our women too. Penan headmen speak out.

So how has Taib responded to these complaints of rapes against girls as young as ten years old?  Despite the fact that official delegations by Malaysian authorities have verified these allegations, he has refused to allow any investigation.

The reason seems to be that he regards these Christian forest folk as something akin to animals.  After all, his own side kick James Masing when interviewed by the UK’s BBC Television about a young girl who was beaten unconscious and raped by loggers, said the matter was not serious, as these people are “promiscuous from an early age”!

These are the issues that NGOs are drawing attention to and which the Malaysian High Commissioner has chosen to call “petty”!

In his reported words to the Borneo Post Sulong did admit that these issues and stories were causing Malaysia some considerable problems.  Indeed he whined that, as part of his job, he has to monitor the stories that are published in the UK about such matters and he acknowledged that it is hard to get politicians here to speak out against the NGOs, because they are “very powerful”.

The power of truth

'Weighty issues' in the Borneo Post - Taib seeks Ang Pow with latest top cronies for New Year

'Weighty issues' in the Borneo Post - Taib seeks Ang Pow with latest top cronies for New Year

The power of the NGOs comes from telling the truth.  In Malaysia papers like the Borneo Post are prevented from reporting such matters as human rights abuses and environmental destruction.

Instead, the ‘weighty issues’ that papers in Sarawak are forced to report day after day and page after page are the dreary diary events of the geriatric CM and his wild fantasies about ‘Score’ and ‘development’.

They are banned from covering any stories that might embarrass the Chief Minister.

Indeed, some some Malaysians drew a contrast today between the huge coverage by Malaysia’s government controlled newspapers this summer of a Malaysian boy, mugged during a street riot in London and the lack of any similar interest in the welfare of Dayaks.

They queried why the attacks against Dayak people and rapes of Penan women are not worth equal concern?

What hidden agenda have the NGOs got in trying to help these defenceless people?

Datuk Sulong reportedly alleged to his Borneo Post guests that NGOs, who have been covering such problems in Sarawak, have “hidden and personal agendas”.  Yet, he failed to make clear what those agendas might be, beyond the obvious concern over the crimes against the Dayak and the destruction of the jungle in Sarawak.

By contrast the agenda of Taib Mahmud and the loggers who are raping the jungles could not be clearer for all to see.  They want to make themselves very rich and they selfishly want to share as little of their profit with anyone else.  Simple!

‘Zoo animals”

Sucker foreign tourist? - Conservative MP Bill Wiggin came all the way to Malaysia to see a "petty zoo animal"

And what of those “zoo animals” who Sulong dismisses along with Penan as a petty issue?  Isn’t another large part of Malaysia’s undiplomatic chief diplomat’s job meant to be about promoting tourism?!

With one dismissive remark the High Commissioner has revealed exactly how Malaysia’s BN government really regards the wonderful forests of Sarawak and the amazing animals with which they have been trying to attract tourists.  He regards them as “petty issues” and “zoo animals”!

The truth is that the top dogs in BN in Malaysia today care about one thing only and that is money.  They have tried to have their cake and eat it by advertising to tourists about Sarawak’s 150 million year old jungle, when in reality they have chopped all but about 3% of it down, killing the animals and driving out the people in the process.

This is what the NGOs have been complaining about.

Just for the tourists - "Put them in a Museum", Taib Mahmud. Clearly the High Commissioner agrees!

Hundreds of animal species that just 30 years ago still flourished in Sarawak’s jungles are now threatened with extinction and barely survive in zoos, to which tourists are taken.  These include for example the Bay Cat, of which only about 2,000 now survive, the Clouded Leopard, the Proboscis Monkey and of course the Orang Utan.

Malaysia likes to pretend that it cares so much about the Orang Utan, whose habitat is being eradicated by BN controlled oil palm plantations.  But, High Commissioner Sulong expressed perfectly their real attitude.

To him the Orang Utan, like the starving, abused and dispossessed Penan people, are just a “petty issue” and a “zoo animal”.

Getting himself in on the story! The High Commissioner placed himself next to celebrity Malaysian mugging victim Mohd Asyraf for the photo-calls. But dismisses raped Penan women as a "petty issue"


So, who needs complaining NGOs, when you have a ‘diplomat’ like High Commissioner Datuk Seri Zakaria Sulong to tell everyone the truth about Malaysia’s current treatment of Sarawak and the “petty Penan” and “zoo animals”?

Let’s not sack him, let’s keep interviewing him!



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  • Jeppy Meehan

    Peter Sibon the former Catholic Priest become journalist cannot resist temptation turn his back on Jesus whom he ordained to served…

    Peter Sibon always rub cold beer can to any ladies’ arm or hands he desire…he he he..even pretty young Nuns must be rubbed with cold beer can…

    Now Peter Sibon no longer work for Jesus but work for Taib and crony KTS preaching Falsehood about greed is good in SCORE Debolotment…

    Feel very sorry for Peter Sibon sold his soul to the devil Taib…

    With some free time Peter Sibon also drop-by to apple-polish goofy news about James Masing the great story teller…

    Peter Sibon knew that James Masing not a qualified chartered engineer to verify the structural integrity of Bakun dam but still spinning it as rock solid stuff…

    Perhaps Peter Sibon forgot already the Ten Commandments “Thou Shall Not Lie” and Thou Shall Not Steal” (against taib stealing wang rakyat..)….

    Repent Peter Sibon…repent…stop rubbing cold beer can on lady arms and hands…


    ‘Bakun Dam built to last’

    Masing says facility structurally sound and people should not feel threatened

    by Peter Sibon, The Borneo Post, October 15, 2010, Friday

    BAKUN, Belaga: The safety of the people living downstream of the Bakun Hydro-electric Dam right down to Sibu is assured as the dam is “built to last”.

    “Bakun Dam is built to last. It’s structurally sound and made with both economic and human factors taken into consideration,” assured Minister of Land Development Dato Sri Dr James Masing.

    He said those living downstream of the dam had no reason to fear that the dam would collapse and bring disaster upon them.

    “What we have today is the product of many leading brains in the business of building dams around the world.

    “The dam will serve its purpose, which is to provide the power that our industries need.

    “I am very happy to witness the historical event (impoundment) as I was involved in the development of the dam since 1982,” said Masing.

    He was a research officer with Sesco before he joined politics in 1983.

    Masing, who was speaking to the media at the dam site here yesterday at the end of his tour of the facility a day after its impoundment, also gave the assurance that communication would not be interrupted after the impoundment exercise.

    Masing, who is Baleh assemblyman, also assured that the Rajang River could also be controlled to mitigate flash flood, after the exercise.

    Earlier on, Masing was briefed on the progress of the impoundment by the managing director of Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd, Zulkifle Osman.

    He was accompanied during the visit by his wife Datin Sri Corinne Masing, political secretary to the chief minister Angeline Umis, Kapit Walikota Philemon Nuing, and Councillor Tan Kian Hoo.

    Sarawak Hidro, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated, is the developer of the dam.

    The dam is expected to produce power by the third quarter of next year.

    The initial power is estimated at 300 megawatts and would gradually reach the 1,700MW. Its maximum capacity is 2,400MW.

    Bakun Dam which costs some RM7.3 billion has eight turbines.

    During a press conference held at his residence in Kapit early yesterday morning, Masing assured that the government would pay compensations to 35 families from four longhouses.

    These families did not move to Bakun Resettlement Scheme at Sungai Asap.

    The total compensation is estimated at RM1.12 million.

    “While over 12,000 people were resettled in 15 longhouses built by the government at Sungai Asap in 1990, these families of 120 people just refused to budge,” said Masing.

    He said besides the compensation, each family will also be paid an allowance of RM7,175 for removal, transport and performance of cultural or religious rituals, and a subsidiary allowance of RM5,000 for building materials at their new longhouse site at Naha Jale.

    Masing said the Land and Survey Department is now processing the payments and Kapit Resident’s Office had fixed Wednesday, Oct 20, to pay the affected families.

    He also said that based on the survey by the Belaga District Office in April this year, there were 177 families or almost 1,000 people who are not included in the first group mentioned above.

    “As they were originally from the resettlement scheme of Sungai Asap, the government would assist them to move back to their longhouses at Bakun Resettlement Scheme. A subsidy of RM2,000 will be paid to each family,” he said.

    Masing stressed that for those with ‘bilik’ in the resettlement scheme, the government has decided to give them a 50 per cent discount or RM25,000 of the cost.

    “The government has also decided to release the ‘bilik’ in the scheme to all the owners whose compensation is RM25,000 or below.

    “In essence, the government is topping up the cost of the ‘bilik’ for those whose compensation is below RM25,000.

    “Meaning they are not required to pay anything now other than the compensation money which has been withheld,” he said.


    Bakun rock solid — Sarawak Hidro

    by Peter Sibon and Wilfred Pilo. Posted on July 2, 2011, Saturday

    KUCHING: The Bakun hydroelectric dam is rock solid, safe and built to the highest international standard.

    Sarawak Hidro Sdn Bhd (SHSB) managing director/chief executive officer Zulkifle Osman told The Borneo Post yesterday that the Malaysia China Hydro Joint Venture (MCHJV) consortium, which constructs the dam, had adhered to all specifications stipulated in the contract.

    These specifications, he assured, complied with international standards and practices, and also the QA/QC procedures approved by SHSB.

    Thus, Zulkifle said, allegations of poor quality concrete mix made by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) were “baseless and mischievous”.

    “All cement and concrete samplings were witnessed by Sarawak Hidro’s quality controllers and accordingly approved. The article is irresponsible and cites dubious sources making several erroneous statements and allegations,” he said.

    The news was highlighted in the Hornbill Unleash news portal. It alleged that an NGO claimed that Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned enterprise and China’s biggest dam builder, had used improper construction practices and it was so widespread that the dam thus posed a safety concern.

    The MCHJV, a joint venture between Sinohydro and Sime Engineering, is the biggest contractor of this mammoth RM7.2 billion effort.

    Zulkifle said that in instances when the contractor found local supplies of cement to be of inferior quality it was immediately replaced with higher grade ones from other sources.

    “It should be noted that the construction process of the dam and its ancillary structures will continue to be stringently monitored by the client, who had also appointed an Independent Board of Consultants (BOC) with extensive expertise in dam construction.

    “The BOC, which comprises six members (4 internal and 2 local experts), had carried out 14 site inspections from June 2003 to review the design and construction of the dam and its ancillary structures, and the performance of the contractor.

    “We are confident that the dam and its ancillary structures have been constructed to the highest international standards and safe as confirmed by the BOC,” stressed Zulkifle.

    Meanwhile, Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing, who had been involved, directly and indirectly, in the dam since its inception in 1982 gave an assurance that the Bakun dam was built to last and it is structurally sound. It was also made after taking into consideration both economic and human factors.

    He said those living downstream of the dam had no reason to fear that the dam would collapse and bring disaster upon them.

    “What we have today is the product of many leading brains in the business of building dams around the world,” said Masing.

  • robin chew

    It saddens me that a diplomat like Zakaria Sulong can call the Penans tribe a petty issue like animals in the Zoo. It is with respect to Sarawak Report, I am refraining from using my very vocal & abusive language to describe this irritable supposedly High Commissioner. I would suggest that the British Authorities & the Diplomatic enclaves ignore & not invite him or other Malaysian diplomats to any official functions. Let them know the diplomats from many countries stand solidly with the Penans in Sarawak. The other diplomats could use this issue to amends the wrongs done to the Red Indians tribes in America or the Aborigines in Australia.