Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Penan chief's death: Police findings queried

After months of uncertainty, Sarawak police have deemed that the death of Penan anti-logging activist Kelesau Naan was not due to foul play but “natural causes”.

In a March 16 New Straits Times report, acting Sarawak CID chief Zainuddin Zainal said a post-mortem report indicated Kelesau (photo) had died of natural causes.

The pathologist, however, found it difficult to ascertain the exact cause of death as the skeletal remains were incomplete, the report said.

Peninsula-based human rights group Suaram, however, says this raises more questions than answers. Noting that the police had arrived at the same conclusion two months earlier - even before forensics experts had examined the remains of the body - Suaram urged the police to demonstrate that its probe had been thorough and transparent.

Kelesau, 80, had gone missing on Oct 23 last year after telling his wife, Uding Lidem, that he was going to check on an animal trap he had set near their hut. When he did not return, the villagers mounted an extensive search using tracker dogs.

On Dec 17, they discovered Kelesau’s skull and the bones of his thighs, ribs and hands which suddenly surfaced near Sungai Segita, an area which the search party had combed earlier.Family members expressed suspicion that Kelesau was a victim of foul play. As chief of the Long Kerong village in Upper Baram he had long been against the encroachment of logging interests on Penan ancestral land.

Citing claims that there were tensions between the villagers and company workers, as well as threats of violence, Suaram further said the police have yet to say whether they had investigated these allegations. The police also did not say whether they had investigated or taken statements from certain individuals who were allegedly behind a forged letter dated Jan 5 which contained a ‘denial’ by Kelesau’s son Nick of any foul play in his father’s death.
Nick (photo) has disclaimed having signed the letter and has lodged a police report over the matter. He was also alleged to have been offered RM25,000 to sign the letter.

“As various personnel are named, the police will need to show that statements will be taken, if not already, of the people who had been named by the Penan,” said Suaram.

“The late Kelesau Naan may or may not have paid with his own life in the long and hard struggle of the Penan people. All eyes will be on the Malaysian police to see whether questions are answered or more questions are being asked.”

Source: Malaysiakini
Mar 19, 08 10:28am

No comments: