Sarawak strongman keynote address to paying attendees at Oxford University, London was a disaster as he was greeted by protestors instead of the usual fanfare.
According to online media reports the seemingly ‘untouchable’ ‘invicibles’ Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud faced protests by supporters of the Penan in the UK today, while British MPs have written to him expressing concern over the newly documented cases of sexual abuse of Penan women.
Protestors from Survival and other organizations greeted the Chief Minister in Oxford this morning, where he had travelled with cabinet colleagues to give the keynote speech at the Inaugural Oxford Global Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum.
The protestors held placards reading ‘Penan tribe say NO to logging’ and ‘Malaysia: Stop destroying the Penan tribe’. The protest forced the Chief Minister to enter the building through a side entrance.
The chairman of the British parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group for Tribal peoples, MP Martin Horwood, has written to Taib Mahmud on the occasion of the Chief Minister’s visit to the UK.
‘The Penan have frequently been subject to violence and intimidation at the hands of loggers operating on their land… Without recognition of their land rights, the Penan are struggling to provide for themselves, and are left vulnerable to violence and exploitation’.
Mr Horwood urged the Chief Minister to ‘halt logging and other developments on the Penan’s land without their free, prior and informed consent, according to international law’ and to ‘ensure that Penan women and girls are protected from sexual violence and the perpetrators of such abuse brought to justice’.
In a damage control attempt, one of Taib’s cabinet member Datuk Sri Dr James Jemut Masisng said the state government always ready to discuss Penan issues.
“We have nothing to hide and what we are doing now is for the good of the community,” he said on the sidelines of the Inaugural Oxford Global Islamic Branding and Marketing Forum, London on Tuesday.
No reports of the incident appear at local mainstream media except for a short snippets of Masing’s statement by national publication The Star.