Sarawak deputy chief minister Tan Alfred Jabu Numpang called Penan chief as recalcitrant and stubborn for disobeying government calls to dismantle the blockades in upper Baram.
A really pissed off Jabu, said only one of the six Penan chiefs invited to a meeting in Long Bangan last week were opposing the government.
“I don’t see the meeting as a failure as majority of the headmen were ‘quiet’ receptive to government ideas, except for one Unga Paran who is so ‘berdegil’ (stubborn),” said Jabu, reported a local daily.
Jabu said, the Penan community shouldn’t follow Unga Paran whom he described as ‘degil’ (or stubborn) as he was adamant that state government should meet all their demands before dismantling the blockades.
According to Jabu the government has been making every efforts to resettle the Penan so that they can have a good life.
“I hope they will use their wise judgment.. that the government is really sincere in trying to help them,” he said.
Federal government had given the state government RM100 million grant to resettle the Penans from the period of 2008 to 2010.
It was estimated more than 16,000 Penans in Sarawak and less than a thousand are still nomadic.
Updated: Former Baram MP and social activist tells why the Penans blockade.
In 1987, I was working with the Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) (environmental organisation) Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) based in Marudi, Baram and it was at our office there that the penans came to lodge the same complaints that they were making today which forced them to set up their blockades then, which complaints concerned the blatant disrespect for their rights over their lands and forests, the pollution of their rivers,disappearance of wildlife which they hunt, the intimidations from gangsters paid by the companies whenever they try to protest, damages done to their burial grounds, the bias of the government against them in favour of the companies, ignoring their complaints as above, etc.