Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Authorities vs Swiftlet Farming

"Last week the enforcement officers from Forest Department and Sarawak Forestry Corporation took action against several illegal swiftlet farms in Mukah town district by removing the birds and nest giving reason that the birds should not be reared in shophouses (residential area) as their droppings were unhygienic and posed to health hazard. Besides that, the music plated on loudspeakers to attract the birds was a nuisance to others. There are 1,500 farmers who were operating illegally without the license in the state. Under the state’s Wildlife Protection Rules, swiftlet farming can only be done on agricultural land or in rural areas. The authorities have halted their operation to allow the farmers to dismantle the nests by Dec 31 " Source-The Star October 21.

Sarikei is one of the major player in swiftlet farming. Anyone who has been to our peaceful Sarikei? Every evening, the sky would be darkened with massive group of swiftlets and gradually settled down to bird houses which it varies from shophouses, abandon house or wooden house. Sarikei is offering variety of bird houses to this valuable swiftlets - their bird nests dubbed as White Gold, fetched RM 4000- RM 5000 per kg in the market.

Thus, when Forestry Department’s enforcement team took action in Mukah against the swiftlet farming, it raised lots of sentiment issues. Some are angry with the bird nests were taken and the young hatchlings dead. Nonetheless, some understand that people are concern on whether the bird nest ranching will cause avian flu (moreover with reoccurrence of EV17-Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak), and some worried that the birds’ droppings were unhygienic and posed to health problems. Needless to say, the ‘kiasu” attitude to attract the birds by paying louder music was irritating to local people here.

In this case, there are 2 major issues here, the actions took by the authorities and the swiftlet farming industry. And until the matter is settled, it is not right to say who is right or wrong. Peaceful discussion should lead to amicable solution. I’m sure that the swiftlet farming for its bird nests is a good business venture and its benefits are immeasurable. However there must be proper law and regulation, proper planning and mindset. It is not about blaming the authorities and trying to sympathise with the affected. It is about resolving the concerns of the community and in most cases the majority in the community. What is your say?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Step in crime against Penan Girls..

About three weeks ago, a media release by non-governmental organization Bruno Manser Foundation (BMF) brought to light a long-held concern of the sexual abuse of Penan women. The Swiss group charged that workers from two timber companies were preying on Penan women in the various settlements within the companies’ operation areas, and targeting female students who relied on the companies’ transportation service to get to school. Students from middle Baram are boarders in secondary schools in the interior towns of Long Lama dan Long San, which could take up to a week to travel on foot from their villages.

According the media report, a visit to several villages reveals that prevalence of sexual abuse since the advent of commercial logging. Village leaders who readily air their grouses of hardship brought by logging are hesitant to talk about the sexual exploitation by workers from nearby logging camps.

The following are the quotes uttered sadly from the vulnerable Penan elders:

“We complained to the camp manager. He assured us that they would take action against their men but we’re still suffering”

“They become bold after several drinks and will coax our boys to bring them to houses with young women or girls, or they bring along instant noodles and persuade the victims to cook them a meal on the pretext that they have not had dinner. They then hang around and wait for chance to strike after other occupants of the house turn in for the night”

“If we don’t send our children to school, we are blamed. But providing them transportation is beyond our ability. We are at the mercy of the timber companies. We have to beg them to ferry our children to the secondary schools which are far away”

In response to the issue of the sexual crimes against young Penan girls which has been in the news of late, readers like me are left infuriated. I couldn’t agree more with those calling the relevant ministries, NGO and the public to take immediate action. The situation has become intolerable and should not be allowed to be swept under the carpet any longer.

Horrifying that such incidents have been taken place since 1996 and far worse they claimed that their complaints to the authorities have taken on deaf ears.

The Penan community are helpless and now with their way of life taken away from them as their daughters, sisters and closest people are being sexually abused. They have feelings and they have the right to be safe from harm and be treated with dignity.

I hope the relevant ministries, NGO and the public will take appropriate action to protect the interests of this vulnerable people group in Sarawak.

Bear in mind, act now or be forever guilty in our moral blunder..