KUALA LUMPUR: With one-fourth of registered voters in Cameron Highland being orang asli, orang asli land issue has become an important factor for the Jan 26 by-election.
The Election Commission statistics showed there were 11,010 Malays (34.4%), 9,549 Chinese (29.8%), 4,745 (14.8%) Indians and 6,704 (20.9%) other ethnicities (mostly orang asli).
A lawyer defending orang asli rights Lim Heng Seng said orang asli in Camerons are interested to hear from the election candidates – how issues dear to them, such as dispossession of their ancestral and customary lands will be addressed.
Lim cited the example of a recent land case in Pahang, where the Semelai orang asli succeeded in obtaining court orders for their claim to the land in Bukit Rok and Kampung Ibam in 2012 but action by the Pahang state government is still pending.
“Although the land is not part of Cameron Highlands, candidates must show that they are actively engaging the issue with the orang asli and finding solutions for the loss of land because land issue is important for the orang asli,” he said.
Lim said in the Semalai orang asli’s land case, the last letter from the state government in August last year stated Pahang Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) was making efforts to survey the areas to be alienated.
The state government was responding to the applicants’ requests for updates on the status of the gazetting and alienation as directed by the court.
“But on Nov 2, Jakoa informed of a smaller area than the actual settled and cultivated customary lands stated in the High Court order,” said Lim.
Another letter seeking clarification on the issue on Dec 31 was also sent but no response was received.
Centre for Orang Asli Concerns coordinator Dr Colin Nicholas said that the interests of the orang asli matter as in past elections, whoever garners most of their votes, will win.