‘Incestuous’ Penan article draws public wrath
by May 16, 2012
The People’s Association for Development and Education of Penan is seeking legal advice following a slanderous article about Penans by a Malay tabloid.
KUCHING: An apology over a report claiming that the Penan community practised incestuous relationship has been dismissed as “insincere” by angry Sarawakians from both sides of the political divide.
The article, Ibuku Isteriku, Bapaku Suamiku (my mother my wife, my father my husband) in popular Malay tabloid Harian Metro on Sunday united Sarawakians in their outrage.
The People’s Association for Development and Education of Penan (PADE) is seeking legal advice on the next course of action.
PADE president Ezra Uda said the tabloid’s “small apology” on page nine of yesterday’s paper was humiliating and not sincere.
In the apology, the paper said it had interviewed certain individuals on the issue (incest) and that its intention to publish the article was to learn from the problems affecting the Penan community and not to embarrass anyone.
Uda said that the apology was not sincere as it was published in a small corner of the paper.
“It should have been published in the front page in bold letters as the article was also splashed in the front page of the paper.
“We are very upset with the wild accusation made by the reporter because it labelled us as an ‘incestuous race’,” Uda said.
He pointed out that the article had a traumatic impact on the community, especially students because they might be ostracised by their peers who might believe the report.
“The article will affect students at universities, colleges and schools and also when they are looking for jobs in the private and public sectors,” he said.
Uda said PADE had approached senior lawyer Baru Bian, who is also Ba Kelalan assemblyman, for advice.
Bian told FMT his firm was ready to take up the case.
“We find the article, if true, to be very demeaning and defamatory to the community. We are prepared to assist them,” said Bian who is also Sarawak PKR chief.
Meanwhile, Penan chief Hasan Sui described the apology as an insult to the community, saying that the publishers did not admit the report was wrong.
“I condemn the report and I wish to state here that on behalf of the Penan community, we want the report to be corrected as it is an insult to our community,” he said.
Echoing his view was Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How, who said the tabloid must retract the article and apologise to all Sarawakians.
“The content of the article is derogatory towards the Penan community and an insult to all Sarawakians,” See said.
He added that the writer of the article, who is from Peninsular Malaysia, appeared to be unfamiliar with Sarawak, and had little knowledge of the Penans’ way of life and “obviously was not reporting facts”.
Both Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Alfred Jabu and Senior Minister James Masing also criticised the article.
Describing it as “sensationalised” reporting, Jabu called for a full investigation into the report to determine if there was any element of criminality.
Masing said the article was both outrageous and slanderous.
“As far as literature on the Penans is concerned, there has never been any mention of incest in their society. I think the writer who made the claim has very vivid imagination,” he said.
Meanwhile, local woman lawyer Voon Shiak Ni said irrespective of race, it is unjustifiable for anyone to make allegations against any community about their culture and practices.
He added that the report is as factually wrong.
“I may be a Chinese, but I have met Penans and have Penan friends. There is no such practice in the community that incestuous marriage is either condoned or allowed.
“A Penan friend told me that they are not allowed to marry first, second or third cousins, so what more to say about their mother or father.
“We also do not think it is right and fair for any editors to market their papers at the expense of others,” Voon said.