MIRI: The call by the Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) for the state governments to empower indigenous communities with greater land rights has received support from the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).
AIPP had issued a statement that the regional coalition of native communities in Asia endorsed the stand taken by JOAS that native communities in Malaysia be given due legal protection over their voice on development projects on the ancestral land they have lived in for centuries.
JOAS media coordinator Sze Ning said AIPP had sent a written letter to JOAS stating that the regional body would sought international help for the natives to have their rights duely protected.
“AIPP supports JOAS stance to help indigenous natives in Sarawak and other states in Malaysia to assert their rights over their land.
“UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon had recently said that the interests and welfare of indigenous people must be included as part of any new development agendas by the government. Let us therefore recognise and celebrate the distinctive identities of these natives,” she told Sarawak Metro.
“Let us work even harder to empower them and support their aspirations for greater voice over their rights.”
Last weekend JOAS held the national level celebration of World Indigenous Day in Kuching.
During that event, leaders of all the native groups nationwide attended and highlighted the current issues they were facing, including with regards to the development projects affecting them.
Sze yesterday said AIPP noted that there were many native communities who were still marginalised and denied their basic rights over the land their ancestors had lived on for centuries.
“This had resulted in the natives having to defend their land from encroachment,” she said.
The ongoing blockade in ulu Baram in northern Sarawak by the natives against the construction of the Baram Dam since 2013 was an example, she noted.
JOAS would work closely with AIPP to continue to urge all states to take concrete steps to recognise, respect and give greater legal protection for the collective rights of all natives in Malaysia, Sze added.