KUALA LUMPUR: Orang asli groups are grateful that Attorney General Tommy Thomas has taken legal action against the Kelantan state government to protect their land rights.
Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Network (JKOASM) chairman Tijah Yok Chopil said the orang asli had been treated like they were living on borrowed land when it was their own.
“The federal government’s firm stance is spot on and raises our hopes,” she said in a statement on Saturday (Jan 19).
She added that although the previous government had some consideration for orang asli welfare, it had, for a long time, neglected the community's traditional land rights.
Tijah said many of her lawyer friends in the Bar Council and several individuals were committed to finding solutions to the land issue in Kelantan, but the process was long.
The hard work of all parties, including orang asli activists and the community in Gua Musang, Kelantan, had resulted in the rights of the orang asli being respected and returned, she said.
JKOASM hoped a long-term, comprehensive solution to protect and acknowlege orang asli land could be carried out by the federal government through the implementation of the recommendations of the Human Rights Commission’s (Suhakam) National Inquiry into the Land Rights of the Orang Asli.
Alternatively, a law to acknowlege the land rights should be introduced based on cases that they had won in court, she said.
The Johor Orang Asli Network is also in support of the AG’s move.
Chairman Dolah Tekoi said the action could be an early-stage effort by the federal government under Pakatan Harapan to acknowlege the existence of orang asli land rights.
“The arrogance of the Kelantan government and its denial of traditional land rights can be considered as not respecting the rights of the people, and as such, the best way for the matter to be fought is through the court,” he said.
Dolah said land intrusion not only affected their socio-economic situation and rights but also destroyed and polluted the environment, resulting in a negative impact on the lives of the people.
“It is time for the government to think of a mechanism to protect orang asli traditional land as this was previously ignored,” he said.
Dolah also raised similar concerns for the Lojing area in Cameron Highlands where land development was carried out without control.
“We hope a new policy will be created by the government to ensure the overall land rights of the orang asli are acknowledged,” he said.
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