Indigenous communities want their maps recognised

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 07 Aug 2016

SHAH ALAM: NGOs representing indigenous people are urging the federal and state governments to recognise the maps indigenous communities have drawn up to demarcate their land.

Indigenous People’s Network of Malaysia (JOAS) secretary-general Jannie Lasimbang said JOAS hoped the Survey and Mapping Department (Jupem) would incorporate the maps of the traditional territories into its map.

“That does not amount to them recognising the land but these are the claims of the indigenous people.

“We want a one-map policy and our land superimposed to make it easier for land planning. Often, our areas are not established on the map,” said Jannie, who was here for the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples celebrations from Aug 6 to 9 in Taman Botani Negara here.

She said the indigenous people’s land needed to be incorporated so that people are more cautious whenever there are projects planned and know that there are people living there.

The indigenous communities started drawing up the maps actively since early this year with the launch of the Global Call to Action on Indigenous and Community Land Rights, a worldwide campaign with the aim to double the area of land recognised as owned or controlled by indigenous people and local communities by 2020.

The Global Call to Action was conceived as a response to the vast amount of communities and indigenous people numbering 1.5 billion globally whose lands are being contested.

The campaign aims to mobilise communities, movements, organisations, governments, the private sector and individuals to support ongoing struggles on the ground and jointly push for change in policy and practice.

Jannie said they hoped the relevant authorities would do the mapping together with the community.

She said the indigenous people made up 13% of the Malaysian population but they do not know the actual land size they have.

“This year, we have launched the campaign looking at the size of land and coming up with base line data,” she said.

So far this year in Sabah alone 150 villages had been mapped and another 50 were supposed to be mapped in the peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, she said.

The map is the inherited traditional territories map which not only demarcates indigenous dwellings areas but also the planted area, traditional forest, burial grounds and watershed, she said.

Foraging areas and hunting areas were the more contentious areas of land claim but Jannie said Sarawak had recognised this through its jurisprudence.

Borneo Resources Institute (Brimas) coordinator Mark Bujang said that in Sarawak, only some 300 communities had done mapping of indigenous land since the 1990s.

He said the federal and state government had not been receptive in recognising their maps because they claimed the indigenous people were not qualified to do land survey work nor registered with the Land Surveyors’ Board.

“But even though they are not done by qualified persons, the maps are accepted by the courts as evidence,” he said.

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