Suhakam Says Perak MB “Offensive” over Orang Asli Rights, Logging Temporarily Halts

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Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu is being wilfully ignorant and offensive towards the Orang Asli with his repeated statements that they have no rights to their ancestral land when the courts had affirmed such rights, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said.

“The lack of recognition by the Perak state government is wilfully ignorant, offensive and disrespectful to the Orang Asli, whose rights are protected under the Federal Constitution through laws such as the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 as well as in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which Malaysia voted in favour of in 2007.

“Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands are protected under the land codes of each of the states based on gazettements, though these gazettements are not comprehensive and many areas are still not recognised as Orang Asli land.

“The recognition of NCR land must be based on traditional occupation over generations preceding the modern conception of land titles and cater for cultural practices such as roaming areas, as articulated in such landmark cases as Adong bin Kuwau & Ors v Kerajaan Negeri Johor & Anor in 1998 and Sagong bin Tasi & Ors v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor in 2002,” Suhakam said in a statement this evening.

Faizal has said the Perak constitution does not recognise Orang Asli ancestral land and stated support for the demolition of blockades the Orang Asli put up to stop loggers from encroaching into their ancestral lands within the forest reserve.

However, Faizal this evening announced that the Perak government will halt all logging near Orang Asli settlements at the Air Chepam Forest Reserve in Hulu Perak.

He said this in a joint statement with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Waytha Moorthy, who oversees Orang Asli affairs, following a meeting with Waytha Moorthy and Attorney-General Tommy Thomas yesterday.

“Moving forward, the federal and state governments will work together to resolve any issues regarding the Orang Asli community,” Faizal and Waytha said in a joint statement today.

“The federal and state governments take the rights of the Orang Asli community very seriously.

“The menteri besar has with immediate effect ordered a temporary halt to all logging within the land in question, pending discussions between the state and the Orang Asli community.”

Recently, three Temiar Orang Asli were arrested in Gerik for erecting a blockade.

The Temiar have allied with other Orang Asli villages in the vicinity to stop loggers from felling trees on what they claim is their customary land.

Their allies in the battle with loggers are the Orang Asli in Kg Cunex, Kg Ong Jelmol, Kg Sg Leyef and Kg Pos Piah.

They have vowed to continue putting up blockades until the state government addresses their demand to stop logging in their customary land.

Today, a blockade at Kampung Sungai Papan was again demolished, a repeated act as Orang Asli and loggers aided by state officials engage in a cycle of building blockades and tearing them down.

A foreign female journalist was also taken in by police for questioning while covering the blockade today. Both denied it was an arrest but just a “documentation process”.

Suhakam said it regretted the “continuing state-sanctioned and systematic violations of rights of the Orang Asli involving both public and private entities.

“This signifies outright hostility to deprive a people of their livelihood and movement.”

The national rights body repeated its call for a moratorium on all development on NCR land pending the implementation of the proposals of a 2013 Report of the National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous People.

Suhakam also said it last met Faizal on September 20 last year to discuss Orang Asli land rights and other human rights issues affecting them.

Suhakam said it was seeking a follow-up meeting.

Earlier report: July 31, PM Urged to Get Rid of “Anti-Orang Asli” Perak MB