Saturday, August 1, 2009


The quote, as attributed to Marie Antoinette, was claimed to have been uttered during one of the famines that occurred in France during the reign of her husband Louis XVI. Upon being alerted that the people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, she is said to have replied, "Then let them eat brioche." This type of callousness on the part of the monarchy has often been referred to in writings about the possible factors that led to the French Revolution.

(From Wikipedia)

As we know, the French Revolution was a violent uprising of the masses where many nobles and officials were lynched - the popular punishment being beheading.

Now let's take a look closer to home.


Sarawak DCM shocked by claim that Penans are starving

(Bernama) - Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan was shocked over news reports about 3,000 Penans in the remote settlements in upper Belaga in the Kapit Division facing starvation due to shortage of food.

"I'm very is impossible. If nobody helps them, the Penans can still survive in the jungle easily as they can hunt for animals and forage for edible plants," he told reporters here today.

Dr Chan was asked to comment on today's newspaper reports which quoted Rural and Regional Development Deputy Minister Datuk Joseph Entulu Belaun that famine had hit about 3,000 Penans in Belaga following crop failure in their five major settlements, and they were crying out to the government for help.

Entulu, who was with Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia and six MPs at the government-built Penan service centre in Lusong Laku early this week, said the Penans were facing starvation over the last three months, relying on tapioca, wild sago and jungle products but supply had run out.

The five settlements are Long Abit, Long Kajang, Long Tanyit, Long Malin and Long Lidem.

Meanwhile, Ulu Rejang MP Datuk Billy Abit Joo also expressed shock over the news reports, but also amusement, saying that "shortage of food does not mean the Penans are starving".

"There are about 1,000 Penans in the six settlements and they are not starving. "The Penans have always faced food shortage due to the destruction of their food source, but this year they had poor rice harvest because the crop had been destroyed by insects and monkeys," he said.

However, Abit said the Penans' harvest could still last about seven months. (This is significant. I will explain later - EWO)

"The Penans will share their harvest, hunt for animals and look for wild sago as their staple food. They will not starve," he said.


Some background on our fellow Malaysian citizens - the Penan:

The Penan are one of the few remaining nomadic peoples of the rain forest. They live in a place of indescribable beauty, a diverse forest intersected by rivers and the world's most extensive network of caves and underground passages.

The world of the Penan is threatened. Their homeland in the Malaysian state of Sarawak is undergoing one of the highest rates of logging on earth. It is a rate of forest destruction twice that of the Amazon and by far the highest in the world. In 1983 Malaysia accounted for almost 60% of the total global export of tropical logs. By 1985, three acres of forest were being cut every minute of every day. The destruction of the forest is forever altering the lives of the Penan and the other indigenous peoples of Borneo.

Some Penan are also threatened by a massive dam project. The proposed Bakun dam will flood 70,000 hectares of land (that's about 3 times the size of KL city!!-EWO), displacing indigenous peoples and wildlife and destroying even more rain forest.

Traditional Penan society is nomadic and survives by hunting and gathering. Only a handful of such societies remain on earth. The nomadic hunting-gathering lifestyle represents the original human condition, and was the way our own ancestors lived for millions of years.

Until a few decades ago, thousands of Penan wandered through the forests of Borneo's interior. Today, only a small number of them continue to practice this ancient lifestyle. Yet while most Penan now have permanent homes by the riversides, they continue to make long journeys into the forest to collect food, medicine, and other jungle products. The physical and spiritual well-being of all Penan, whether nomadic or settled, depends on the survival of the forest.

The Penan hunt and eat a wide variety of forest animals, including birds, squirrels, monkeys, lizards, and barking deer. But the most prized game animal is the bearded pig. Sometimes weighing more than a hundred kilos, one of these animals can supply enough meat to feed a nomadic group for several days.

While only males go hunting, men, women, and children all help in the production of sago.

Sago making is one of the world's most efficient ways of making a living. A family can process enough sago in one day to feed itself for a week. If leisure time is a measure of affluence, the nomadic Penan are among the richest people on earth.

The Penan, like other nomadic hunter-gatherers, enjoy an egalitarian society. There are no social classes or hierarchies. There is no wealth or poverty, and all food is shared. Each band has a headman who acts as a spokesperson but wields no power. Although certain tasks are reserved for men and others for women, there is no obvious sexual inequality, and neither sex exercises coercion over the other. Both men and women are gentle and soft-spoken. Outsiders who observe them are invariably struck by the complete absence of violence among the Penan.

Perhaps the greatest transgression in Penan society is sihun , a term that translates roughly as a failure to share. Dependent on the forest for life, and each other for survival, the Penan have, in effect, institutionalized individual generosity as a means of insulating the group as a whole from the uncertainties inherent in a hunting and gathering way of life.

Virtually all outside observers have commented on the lack of apparent conflict within traditional Penan society. Violent arguments and physical abuse are almost unknown. The Penan themselves acknowledge this cultural trait, and express surprise and disapproval when violent interactions occur amongst themselves or members of neighboring communities. So rare is physical confrontation that a single incident can be memorialized for all time. There is a house site in the territory of the Western Penan where, some forty years ago, two women quarreled furiously over an accusation of adultery. This locality is now known as Lamin Pagem, 'the house of hair pulling.'

(Excerpts from


Let's summarize the salient points of the news report:

POINT 1: Rural and Regional Development Deputy Minister declares 3,000 Malaysians starving
POINT 2: Sarawak DCM says, "No la. They can eat other things wat!"
POINT 3: Billy Abit Joo thinks it's funny: "No food doesn't mean they are hungry wat!"
POINT 4: Billy Abit Joo also says: "Anyway, so what? All along they have no food wat, cos we've chopped down and sold off all the jungle where they get their food."
POINT 5: Billy Abit Joo also says: "Their crops are destroyed, that's why they still have 7 months worth of harvest."

When asked about the report quoting the D.Min of Rural Development no less, the Sarawak DCM scoffs at the report instead of talking like a responsible leader and saying that he will investigate and take necessary action! If the report was false, present the facts to prove it la! If it's true, do something about it la! Laughing off such a serious situation as a famine is unbelievable and reprehensive! We're not talking about a pathetic tear-jerking episode of Bersamamu highlighting one or two poor families here and there. This is 3,000 Malaysian citizens we're talking about!

Our fellow Malaysians, the Penan, are noted for their practice of 'molong' which means never taking more than necessary. They never practise hoarding as sharing everything is the norm. So when 3000 Penans claim they have not enough food to eat, it means that even after sharing everything they have, and even after scouring what little is left of the surrounding jungles, 3000 Penans still cannot find enough food to eat! It's that does not constitute a REAL famine, what does?

I mean, it's not like they can jump into their Ford Ranger and drop by their favourite mamak stall for teh tarik and roti canai! They have 2 main sources of food - the family farm and the what the jungle provides. If these 2 are closed, where do they turn to then?

But the incredibly arrogant and insensitive Billy Abit Joo dismisses the issue flippantly, saying that "The Penans have always faced food shortage due to the destruction of their food source (i.e. the jungle)." So? It's ok for them to be always short of food is it? Because they do not belong to the rich and powerful elite of the country, their lives are less valuable, is it?

Billy Boy also said that the current year's crops had been destroyed by pests. How then can he say that the harvest can last 7 months? Do the Penans really cultivate that much land to be able to harvest 7 MONTHS worth of food even after most of their crops have been destroyed? If they had that much access to land, would they be desperately fighting for native land rights? Would they be dependent on foreign NGOs to hgihlight their plight and sponsor their fight? This statement is a blatant lie! And in his sheer arrogance and stupidity (i can't decide which he has more of), he expects people to believe that that Penans will not starve because they have no food source, and they have 7 months worth of food harvested because they have no land and crops have been destroyed!


There is a specific report of a specific incident (3000 Malaysians facing famine), announced by a Senior Minister, with specific facts (people, places, and reasons) and a specific solution sought (asking govt for help). And what is the Sarawak BN govt's reaction?


Or the Malaysian equivalent:

"If nobody helps them, the Penans can still survive." (George Chan, DCM)

It's clear as day that the Sarawak politicians DON'T GIVE A SHIT whether these Penans live or die! This goes beyond the issues of beaurocracy, lazy & corrupt politicians, or even the politics of power. This is about humanity. It is about the lives of 3,000 men, women and children that the politicians are supposed to be wakil of. But instead of representing them, they get a big middle finger in their face

"shortage of food does not mean the Penans are starving". (Billy Abit Joo)

Indeed! The BN govt can spend RM100 million to send a dentist on a space tour, send our army to Bosnia so that we can boast of our peacekeeping prowess, and even campaign to rehabilitate a British genius turned prostitute. But when 3000 Malaysians are facing the prospect of starvation?

"The Penans have always faced food shortage due to the destruction of their food source." (Billy Abit Joo)

It's incredible that the people of Sarawak keep voting these criminal fools into office decade after decade!

But while the claim of famine among the Penan is poignant, it points to much bigger issues than just shortage of food.

The Penan depend on the jungle for food sources to supplement their small family farms. If the Penan who never take more than they need, can't even find enough food for their own families from the massive land mass of Sarawak, can you imagine the massive scale of jungle destruction going on?

This is wrong on so many levels:

The environmental destruction - such massive logging contributes to global warming and overall global environmental degradation. The destruction of Sarawak's flora and fauna also upsets the natural biological balance of the rainforests. the jungles of Sarawak is also host to one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world with millions of species of plants and animals, many of which are unique to only Borneo island. It is rich in medicinal plants whose properties are just being discovered. The irresponsible destruction of such a precious resource with the potential to benefit the world at large just to line the pockets of an elite few is repugnant in the extreme!

The social destruction - The very fabric of the the various people groups' societies are being ripped apart as more and more are forced to resettle. Instead of willingly and naturally assimilating into modern life, they are being shoe-horned into alien lifestyles that have zero resemblance to the way of life that has probably been etched into their genetic memory. This gives rise to many potential social problems as these people grapple to come to terms with a new lifestyle they do not understand, and being cut off from the lifestyle that they do.

The nationhood destruction - While the reason often given to justify the resettlements are that it was time for the tribes to join modern society, it is usually nothing more than an excuse to clear the way for more million-year-old jungle to be plundered for their precious wood. This shows a state of mind where the powers-that-be place money above lives. Where the law is a tool to enforce their will and not protect the citizens. Where self-enrichment is more important than running the country. Where might makes right.

While we may not behead anyone in Malaysia, let's hope the Penans plight will wake up the majority of Sarawakians to lead a political revolution and teach the BN regime a lesson they will never forget. It is patently apparent that they have not learnt it yet in the first place!

Because a nation cannot survive when greedy, heartless criminals run the show! There will be no rule of law! There will be no recourse for the innocent! We will be living in a gangster state! How can we allow our children to inherit such a country from us? It is up to our generation to stand up for a better Malaysia, so that 30 years from now our children will not look at us and ask

"What the hell did you bring into this shithole world for?!"


  1. A Very sad tale and sadder still it is true... what's worse there's nothing we can do about it!

    Where are the warriors who fight for the bumiputeras? where are the loud mouths crying foul?

    These are the real bumiputeras god dammit!

    Take their forests, steal their land, rape their girls, starve them to death....

    damn I'm mad!

  2. These are the people who needs the most help & their elected reps are still in slumber !

    How do we tell the Penans to vote them out?

  3. "How do we tell the Penans to vote them out?"

    Maybe they did, who knows? Remember in GE12 that MAFREL was NOT allowed to escort the ballot boxes from the interiors to the counting stations?

  4. Hello, I thought you might like to know about Survival International's Penan campaign:

  5. Hi, could I use your excerpts from your blog post to run a letter-writing campaign to the PM and Minister and D-G of Health to push for a fact-finding and relief team to the affected Penans? I have been mulling over this issue for some time and feel that this is the first step that can be taken.