Gerawat: Penans in Long Iman were staying in their farm houses when health officers came

Dato Gerawat Gala

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By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, July 3: The Penans from Long Iman were reportedly staying at their farm houses, and not at their longhouses when medical officers visited them in an attempt to conduct Covid-19 swab tests yesterday.

Clarifying the incident, Mulu assemblyman Datuk Gerawat Gala said he had been in contact with the village chief Esak Tu’o, who happened to be in Miri during the incident.

“I wish to clarify about the report on Penans in Long Iman who allegedly ran away from their longhouse to escape from the health team, which was unfortunate. The actual situation was that when Health Ministry (KKM) contacted Esak about their plans to visit Lg Iman to conduct swab tests, the later who is still in Miri informed the medical team that there are only very few people left at the longhouse as most of them are staying in their farms. This is due to the fact that after the recent floods which has caused a lot of damage to their longhouse, it has yet to be fully repaired.

“Esak has also informed the medical team when they called him the day before about the absence of people in the longhouse and that he was still in Miri,” Gerawat said.

He acknowledged that he did suggest for KKM to visit Long Iman to conduct swab tests on the villagers there.

However in the absence of Esak, Gerawat asserted that the team could have postponed the visit until the village chief return to organise and get his people ready at Long Iman.

“Therefore it is not a fair to say that the Penan’s in Long Iman escaped to their farms to avoid the swab test. They need more engagement and assurance like the Penans in other villages like Long Lamai who were initially reluctant but eventually readily cooperated and all present took swab tests after a member of their community was brought along with the KKM team to explain the situation.

“I suggest KKM make another appointment with Esak with help from Mulu sub district administrative officer (SAO) Rebetta Janggi for the Long Iman residents to do swab test on a date to be arranged,” Gerawat said, adding that the Penans there need further engagement and deserve the attention.

Meanwhile, he also clarified that some of the Penans from Long Iman who are staying near Batu Bungan and those working in Mulu National Park and Mulu Marriot Hotel have already taken their swab tests in Batu Bungan clinic over the past two weeks, while some of them have also been vaccinated.

Yesterday, the Fire and Rescue department (Bomba) in a humanitarian aid operation were tasked by KKM to transport several medical officers from Mulu to Long Iman, in an attempt to conduct Covid-19 swab tests on the villagers there, but were met with empty homes. — DayakDaily