You can spend RM15 MILLION ON A BY-ELECTION, but you won’t spend for a CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION? Source: Malaysiakini. Emphasis mine.
No budget, so no to rape probe
The police have reportedly told Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) members that it is unable to support a joint Police-NGO mission to investigate the allegations of rape of Penan schoolgirls by logging company workers in Baram because of a lack of money.
Sarawak Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Chief, ACP Huzir Mohamed said the State Contingent could only find and allocate RM100,000 for the investigation, which would cover only the expenses of the police personal.
The money would not be sufficient to cover the costs of Malay-Penan translators who would play an essential role in the investigations of the alleged rapes.
Allegations of sexual abuse of Penan girls and women by loggers, published in newspaper last October, sparked widespread international and local outrage and condemnation.
Two Penan girls lodged police reports last October alleging sexual abuse by logging workers.
Their lawyer, See Chee How, said Bukit Aman had initially offered to mount a joint Police-NGO task force to investigate the reports.
According to See, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Musa Hassan had asked the NGOs to co-operate with Bukit Aman and the Sarawak police in a joint investigation effort.
“The IGP accepted that Bukit Aman and the NGOs should be involved because there is a lack of trust in the local Sarawak police among the Penan communities,” See explained.
“The local Penan have been making police reports into sexual abuse by loggers since the report of a rape of a 12-year old girl in 1994, but they have never been taken seriously.
“The victims have been pushed around from Marudi to Miri and back again. Many of them traveled 300 kilometres to seek justice, only to be frustrated,” he said.
See says the local police have lost the trust of the Penan communities, because of previous police apathy and inaction – a view also mooted by Ambiga Sreenavasan, the Bar Council President at the time of the reports were made last October.
The IGP accepted the need, See told Malaysiakini, for police to visit the villages of alleged victims together with representatives of Malaysian social and human rights NGOs.
The IGP agreed the NGOs would provide assurance to the victims and lend credibility to the police officers.
“The IGP sought co-operation and assistance from us, from the NGOs, and pledged full support for a joint investigation,” he said.
See said the proposed joint Police-NGO investigation team would have been able to interview at least 15 alleged sexual abuse victims by logging workers in various parts of Baram.
About turn and roadblock
“The CID Chief Huzir told us that Bukit Aman examined the terms of reference of the investigation team and the proposed itinerary but has now decided that the Sarawak Contingent has to bear the costs of the investigation and obtain assistance from the Miri Resident (head of the local government in Miri Division),” See explained.
“Huzir then said the State Contingent could only find and allocate RM100,000 for the investigation, which would cover only the expenses of the Police.
The police say they cannot afford to have the NGO representatives with them on the investigation team.
“Huzir proposed to hire six Penan-Malay translators from the Miri Residents’ office, but said that they could not afford the RM3,600 budgeted for six days!” See claimed.
The proposed schedule and terms of references of the investigation had been communicated to Bukit Aman CID Director Mohd Bakri Mohd Zinin, during a meeting on January 20, according to NGO sources.
“We sent many emails to Bukit Aman following the IGP’s promise to set up the joint mission, and waited a month for each reply. But now, seven months later, Bukit Aman turns around and says it’s up to the Sarawak Contingent. And the Sarawak police say they will not support a joint Police-NGO team.
“Huzir even suggested that the NGO representatives need not go, but could simply provide the names of victims and witnesses and their locations to the police,” See frowned.
“Does it make sense that the Police can say they spent RM15 million on the Kuala Terengganu by-election yet they cannot support an investigation into sexual abuse of poor rural Penan schoolgirls?” he asked.
Wolves guarding sheep?
According to the NGO representatives, the police say they are still willing to consider a joint Police-NGO mission but the NGO members “must not interfere” with any police interviews and the recording of statements from alleged victims or witnesses.
“We had held two previous meetings with the top brass in Bukit Aman, when they promised to support the joint Police-NGO mission,” See pointed out.
“Now they are talking as if the first two meetings never took place.”
“What’s worse,” See continued, “is that ACP Huzir and the Miri Resident, Dr Ngenang anak Janggu, agree that the investigating officers should feel free to use the vehicles and drivers from the logging company to visit the Penan communities!”
The Penan Support Group NGOs comprising 35 bodies, with Suaram as its Secretariat, will now discuss the possibility of raising funds to allow NGO representatives to accompany the police to the villages.
An alternative suggestion, made earlier by the police, was for the alleged victims to gather at a police station in the Baram area for interview.
This was not agreeable to the NGO representatives.
The NGO members say the alleged Penan victims do not have the resources to travel to present themselves at the police station and they would, in fact, be terrified, even if they could afford to go.
Approached by journalists after the Aug 17 meeting with the NGOs, the Sarawak CID chief Huzir declined to comment on any investigations into the alleged sexual crimes among the Penan.
However, he said, the police might hold a press conference in the near future.
Meanwhile, the victims of the alleged crimes and their families continue to live in dread and uncertainty.