KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) has welcomed the legal action taken by the federal government against the Kelantan state government to protect the rights of the orang asli.
It said that it was concerned over state-sanctioned encroachment of traditional orang asli land in Gua Musang, Kelantan, as well as in other states.
“The actions of the Kelantan state government and its agencies clearly illustrate the systemic mistreatment of our nation’s indigenous peoples and its lack of respect for their rights.
“Suhakam is, therefore, pleased to note that the federal government has filed a suit at the High Court in Kota Baru. It is the first time in Malaysian history that the government is interceding on behalf of the orang asli, an action which is long overdue,” said Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail yesterday.
Despite the fact that land may be a state matter, the federal government has the duty to uphold the rights of orang asli who are citizens of Malaysia, he said, adding that it was unethical and unreasonable for either the federal or state government to restrict their duties, especially on their rights.
“Suhakam believes that, should a breach in the duty of consultation occur, the approvals or permits of those logging companies involved should be revoked,” he said.
Razali said Suhakam hoped this would set a precedent for states to uphold orang asli rights in future.
“We believe that the state government can find ways to resolve the matter quickly, even now, and need not wait for the outcome of this court case,” he said.