MIRI: Certain non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been questioned over what appears to be a desire to prevent the Penan community from progressing and experiencing the developments of modern life.
Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB) Telang Usan youth chief councillor Dominic Nyurang Ajang questioned whether the NGOs and political stakeholders wanted the Penan community to remain in the jungle so they could easily be instigated, manipulated, and used as tools for political agendas.
He pointed out for the Penan community to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, and successful entrepreneurs, they needed to be educated and leave the forests, pointing out that those who have chosen modern lives have sent funds back to their families in the villages.
“It is evident that the Penan community will be able to advance themselves when they dare to come out of their comfort zone,” he said, when responding to criticisms of Telang Usan assemblyman Dennis Ngau’s call for the Penan community to move beyond a jungle lifestyle.
“There are even Penans who have opened a grocery store in their hometown. This is all from the experience and association that is gained in urban areas. Such a shift in mindset should be encouraged.”
Dominic pointed out that members of the Orang Ulu and other indigenous communities who have left their villages to pursue other opportunities have managed to succeed and contribute back to their home villages.
He cited the examples of the Kelabit community contributing back to Bario, the Lun Bawang to Lawas or Ba Kelalan, the Kayan-Kenyah to Baram or Belaga, and the Berawan to Tutoh or Tinjar.
“So what’s wrong with the Penans emulating the same way of life of the other Orang Ulu ethnic groups?” he asked.
Dominic explained Dennis was merely calling on the Penan community to progress economically without forgetting their origins.
“Just like us, the Kayan, Kenyah, and Kelabit, who are their closest neighbours, one way to equip the Penans to be as competitive as any other ethnic group is through education,” he added.