Please click to enlarge the extracts from The Battle for Sarawak's Forests by World Rainforest Movement (Sahabat Alam Malaysia), 1990.
There was a time when I was an idealist like Bruno Manser, believing everything in this world would best be left in its pristine state. There should be no development at all. Period.
Today, that idealism has to give way to the reality that as long as a state does not carry out development, there would be no progress in this part of the world. As we lag behind in progress, the rest of humankind will carry on, making us mere fools who have been deceiving ourselves in our delusions.
I would think it is time that the gentle nomadic people, the Penans of Borneo should be persuaded by kind means-not through gangsters or other dubious tough methods- to accept development. It is only through development that they would maintain their survival. Life is near impossible with the ongoing heavy deforestation as the rivers and streams remain polluted and wildlife food gets scarce. Diseases and deadly creatures are rampant in the interior and the early death rates of these folks remain high.
Sadly, there are some Penans who have totally rejected assimilation into the fabric of civilized modern society. They are so hard-core that they are prepared to either be imprisoned (The courts have been harsh on them), mistreated (The law-keepers have also been tough on them) or even die for their cause. Perhaps it is due to idealism, illiteracy, ignorance or just plain stubbornness (Let's leave this to the sociologists and psychologists to dissect and explain away) but the fact remains that they are actually happy the way they are.
Is there a solution for them? Maybe, just maybe, the kindest way to handle this problem is to resettle them in a beautiful Shangrila paradise with clear boundaries, somewhere in the virgin jungle. They, and all those many anti-development jungle dwellers could opt to resettle in this location. It would be their self-governing homeland without political power, much like one of the Northern American reservations. Here, they would be able to hunt and move about to their delight. Short of carrying that out, it could mean there will tragically be a subtle cleansing of this amazingly humble nomadic folks.