Rosmah and the Penan Rapes Issue
March 1, 2010
By Pak Bui
PM Najib’s wife Rosmah Mansor was handed a letter by three Sarawakian women during her recent visit to Kuching. The three women called on her to take action to address Sarawak women’s rights, following the government report of Penan schoolgirls and women raped in Baram.
The three women had been following the heart-breaking stories of Penan girls and women sexually abused by employees of logging companies, after the companies had invaded the Penans’ forests.
The three individuals, Malay, Iban and Chinese, went up to Rosmah Mansor while she was having a meal with “high-ranking” Sarawak women, including Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department Fatimah Abdullah and Senator Empiang Jabu.
The letter from the Sarawakian women included attachments of press articles, in a folder with a white ribbon on its cover, symbolising the campaign to end violence against women in Malaysia.
A call to take action
According to the letter, the three women explained that they were regular visitors to Rosmah’s blog. They had read on her blog that Rosmah had proclaimed to be “actively championing women’s issues and advocating women’s rights and interests”. They noted that Rosmah had announced that she would visit the United States in April to address women’s issues on an international platform.
The women said they had been observing the horrific news of the Penan rapes on the mainstream media and on internet news sources.
According to the Ministry of Women task force report, logging company employees and drivers, had been raping girls as young as ten, when they picked the girls up on the way to or from school.
The three women pointed out that the findings of the National Taskforce, set up by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, were made public last September.
Although the federal ministry report had confirmed that rape and other types of sexual exploitation had indeed caused suffering among those Penan girls and women, no concrete action has been taken.
“But no concrete measure has been taken by the state government to deal with this issue”, according to the women’s letter.
The three women expressed their anger that the cursory police investigation had been a farce, and an abject failure. They appended several news reports with their letter to Rosmah, that they said had shown the police had closed the case with a shrug.
“We were extremely frustrated and disappointed when the police, who are supposed to be guardians of the law and justice, were hasty to conclude and declare that the Penan sexual abuse case is closed and their probe is over!” they said.
Furthermore, they said, state leaders have unashamedly shown their prejudice against the Penan community. State leaders have been saying that “the Penan are good storytellers and they change their stories when they feel like it” or that “they are nomads and are thus easily manipulated by ‘negative’ NGOs”.
They said the Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu had even alleged that these so-called ‘negative’ NGOs could have been responsible for the federal ministry’s Taskforce Report!
In fact, the Taskforce had been dominated by representatives from federal government ministries, the police and the Sarawak government.
The Datin-Datin response
Rosmah accepted the letter without comment, and looked through the contents briefly at the dining table.
Alfred Jabu’s wife, Empiang, was seated on Rosmah’s left, as seen in the photograph above. The look on Empiang Jabu’s face was priceless. She was so stunned that she even stopped eating.
Empiang’s expression resembled nothing more than a kind of bovine shock. Thoughts must have been racing, or at least trundling, through her mind. Perhaps she was recalling her husband Alfred’s shameful, blasé, pathetic attempts at denial of the Penan schoolgirls’ suffering.
Fatimah Abdullah, Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department, was sitting on Rosmah’s right. She had expressed concern over the Ministry of Women’s report and accepted its findings, but had also failed to speak up for the Penan women and girls.
After the three Sarawakian women approached Rosmah, Fatimah looked extremely anxious, with her hand clasped to her chin, when the letter was handed to Rosmah.
Rosmah’s likely response
Rosmah has professed a very public interest in children’s education. But she is hardly likely to take such a personal interest in the welfare of Penan schoolchildren, that she would instruct her husband to compel the police to re-open the case, and bring the perpetrators of sexual abuse to justice.
The three Sarawakian women may have made their point with Rosmah. But despite Mrs PM’s desperate attempts to appear motherly and caring towards young children, Rosmah’s credibility is still scraping the bottom of the barrel throughout the country, and will continue to do so.
Even if Rosmah has a legendary grip on her husband Najib, as the press has scornfully reported, it is unlikely that she will go out on a limb to support her “sisters” in remote villages in Sarawak.
We can only expect that Rosmah’s expected failure to achieve any protection for these tormented Penan girls and women, will only serve to emphasise her empty public persona, and subject her to even worse ridicule from the Malaysian public.