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Sahabat Alam Malaysia

.....The plight of the Penan Community is becoming worse and worse...PLEASE FORWARD TO YOUR MAILLIST..TQ...

Hi all

We have launched our Penan campaign. The plight of the Penan Community is becoming worse and worse. Please support us in our campaign on the Penans. The background and what you can do is stated below. You may also share this with friends from other networks.

Thank you so much.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia


In 1963, Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia. For Sarawak, 42 years of independence from colonial ruling have not changed the lifestyle of the Sarawak Penans as they continue to live in extreme poverty with hardly much access to basic needs like proper housing, food, clean water, education and healthcare as well as identification documents. Further, their native customary rights and ancestral rights to lands and forests have never been respected.

For the last decade the Government of Malaysia has frequently made various statements that financial assistance and facilities have been provided to the Penans on the pretext of solving their problems. However, it is clear that this assistance and facilities have failed to improve their lives or livelihood and until today they still continue to live in destitute. In the late eighties and early nineties, in response to the series of peaceful protests and human barricades staged by the Penans against encroachment by logging companies and the destruction of the forest resources which is vital to their survival, the state government had stated that it had identified and undertaken several measures to resolve some of the Penans’ problems. Among the measures highlighted were the allocation of two biosphere reserves for the Penans in the Upper Apoh, Tutoh and Ulu Limbang areas which should be protected from logging; one million ringgit annual allocation for Penans’ development needs, service centres in several places in Baram and one in Belaga which would be equipped with a school, clinic and agricultural station; and the setting up of Penan Volunteer Corps. However, as up to now, the Penans in the Apoh and Tutoh areas have no knowledge of the Biosphere Reserves designated for them. They were also in the dark as to how the RM1 million annual allocation is being used to assist them or to meet their development needs. The basic facilities and services such as clinic and agriculture station are not provided and adequately manned at some of the service centres.

Recently, a meeting was held at Kampung Long Belok, Sungai Apoh, Tutoh, Baram where Penan leaders and representatives of Penan leaders from the Sarawak Penan Association (SPA) met and issued a statement highlighting their plight once again and to follow up with the Long Sayan Declaration (2002) which until today has not received much attention from the Government. The SPA also sent a memorandum to the State and Federal Government as well as the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) calling for their demands to be met urgently.

The Penans state that logging on their native customary lands and the lack of respect to their native customary rights are the main problems faced by them. Increased logging activities on the Penans’ native customary lands are causing them much problem. Regrettably, the Government in issuing large numbers of licenses for plantation projects without first understanding the culture or the way Penans live have also made the problems worse.

Besides logging, the lack of healthcare is another major concern where the health of the Penans has deteriorated as a result of air and river pollution, exposure to heat as well as lack of nutritious food due to the depletion of forests because of logging activities. The lack of healthcare centres located near the Penan areas is another factor which contributes to why some of the Penans are of constantly poor health.

Further, until today, a large number of Penans still do not possess identification documents. This is due to high cost of travel in terms of transport to the towns to apply for these documents and most of the births take place in the villages; this too contributes to the lack of any official records. If this problem is not addressed immediately, there will be other problems especially when the Penan children need to be registered in schools or if they have any other official business which require them to produce proper identification documents.


The Penan tribal/village chiefs together with representatives from twenty seven (27) villages/settlements demand the following from the Government of Malaysia and that their demands are fulfilled on an urgent basis:

• Recognise the ancestral and native customary rights on Penan lands and give special rights or privilege to the Penans to continue to obtain their source of food and produce from their forests
• Revoke the provisional leases or licenses issued for large scale plantations which are on Penan customary lands
• Expedite the approval of the Penans’ applications for Communal Forest Reserves
• Prepare a sustainable development plan which is agreeable and beneficial to the Penans
• More education centres should be allocated in or near the Penan villages
• Agricultural and livestock rearing centres should be set up in Penan settlements since the Penans have begun to farm as a result of dwindling food sources from the forests because of logging activities
• The Ministry of Health should constantly monitor the health of the Penans and should do in depth research into the cause of the diseases that attack the Penans and health problems faced by the Penans
• The Ministry of Health should also organise special programmes in Penan villages where Penans should be educated on healthcare through these informative workshops
• The National Registration Department (NRD) should set up a viable mechanism to solve the problems of registration of births and deaths as well as the issuance of identity cards specially for the Penans
• Housing projects for the Penans must take into account safety and comfort not only in terms of the surrounding environment, cleanliness and health, they must also be equipped with all basic amenities
• Provide educational and vocational programmes for graduate or non graduate unemployed youths
• Provide more fully equipped healthcare centres in or near Penan areas in order to enable the Penans to utilise these centres at any time in case of emergencies
• Provide proper educational or scholarship assistance to the Penan children who are receiving government or private education whether at primary/secondary or tertiary levels

In order to help the Sarawak Penans in their campaign to be heard and their rights restored, they would require your help.

What you can do:

Write polite letters or emails to YAB Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Prime Minister of Malaysia by faxing (or posting) your letters or emailing them to his office urging him to fulfill the demands and the requests of the Penans urgently. A model letter has been enclosed below but you need not follow the same.

The model letter contains the address and the fax number of the office of the Prime Minister. Or you can send your emails to .

We would appreciate it that when you send your letters whether via post, fax or email, a copy is sent to us. Kindly do not cc us in your letters or emails. Either send a blind carbon copy of your email to us or post/fax your letters to the following:

Sahabat Alam Malaysia
Friends of the Earth Malaysia
9, Solok Emas
11600 Penang
Tel : +6 04 – 659 6 930
Fax : +6 04 – 659 6 931

If you wish to follow the progress of the Penans, please visit our website at for more information.

Your support in this matter will go a long way in having the Penans have better lives and livelihoods.

Thank you.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia
(Friends of the Earth Malaysia)

(Highlight and copy below)

YAB Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Honourable Prime Minister
Prime Minister’s Office Malaysia
Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
Fax : +6 03 – 8888 3 444

Dear YAB Datuk Seri

We understand that your government has received a memorandum from the Sarawak Penan Association (SPA) on the plight of the Penans living in the Baram and Limbang area of Sarawak. We also understand that this memorandum is a follow up from the Long Sayan Declaration of the Penans (June 2002).

We have been informed that the Sarawak Penans are one of the poorest communities in Sarawak and need as much assistance as possible to ensure that their existence is not threatened by logging and plantation companies and the non access to basic needs.

We noted that the Malaysian government, particularly the state government had publicly stated on several occasions to sincerely assist and protect the Penans especially in the late eighties and early nineties in response to the much publicised Penans’ problems arising from logging activities in and around their areas of settlements as well as obvious lack of basic facilities and services accorded to them on the ground that they have just started to settle permanently at their respective areas. From the various statements made to the media, it can be implied that the state government acknowledged the genuine dependence of the Penans on forest and its resources to sustain or supplement their daily needs and also the Penans require special attention from the government and authorities concerned to be provided with basic facilities and services. Regrettably though, the problems remain to be addressed.

Their rights to ancestral and native customary lands need to be recognised and protected from being encroached upon by provisional lease holders, illegal loggers and planters. This would ensure that they have enough resources to sustain their livelihoods. Basic needs like the provision of proper education and education assistance for the Penan children, health services, housing benefits and registration of births and issuance of identity cards should be give immediate attention to.

We seek your kind indulgence in providing a viable solution to the problems faced by the Penans of Sarawak and hope the changes you make today will improve the quality of their lives.

We look forward to learning of your positive response to the issues we have mentioned above.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

NOTE: Similar letters should be addressed separately to:-

1. YAB Pehin Sri Dr Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud
Chief Minister of Sarawak cum Minister of Resource Planning and Management
Chief Minister’s Office
2nd Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia
93502 Kuching, Sarawak
Fax No: 082 – 444566

2. YB Datuk Sri Abang Haji Johari Tun Abang Haji Openg,
Sarawak State Cabinet Committee on Penan Affairs
7th Floor, Wisma Bapa Malaysia
93100 Kuching, Sarawak
Fax No: 082 – 444525 / 082 – 443148

From :
Mohd Nizam Mahshar,
Coordinator, Penang (Peninsular) Office,
Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
Friends of The Earth Malaysia
9, Solok Emas,
11600 Penang, Malaysia
Tel : (6) 04 6596930
Fax : (6) 04 6596931
Email :
Website :
Thank You


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