Perak MB's comments on Orang Asli rights disrespectful, says Suhakam

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 01 Aug 2019

PETALING JAYA: The comments made by the Perak Mentri Besar on the rights of Orang Asli to their customary land is disrespectful to the community, says Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

The Commission said that the rights of Orang Asli are protected under the Federal Constitution through laws such as the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954, as well as in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which Malaysia voted in favour of in 2007.

“The comments of Perak Chief Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu regarding the rights of Orang Asli to their customary land (tanah adat) and its lack of recognition by the Perak State Government are wilfully ignorant, offensive and disrespectful to the Orang Asli.

“Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands are protected under the Land Codes of each of the states based on gazettements, though these gazettements are not comprehensive and many areas are still not recognised as Orang Asli land.

“The recognition of NCR land must be based on traditional occupation over generations preceding the modern conception of land titles and cater for cultural practices such as roaming areas, as articulated in such landmark cases as Adong bin Kuwau & Ors v Kerajaan Negeri Johor & Anor in 1998 and Sagong bin Tasi & Ors v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor in 2002, ” said Suhakam in a statement on Thursday (Aug 1).

Suhakam said that the lack of recognition by State governments, public authorities and private companies has “directly” influenced the rise in illegal land-grabbing and encroachment of the indigenous people’s land.

This is despite the recent decision by the Ipoh High Court that favoured with the rights of Orang Asli to their ancestral holdings.

“This indifference towards Orang Asli, particularly by those in power, is not new.

“The police arrests of three Temiar people for their role in a human barricade in Gerik calls into question respect for the rights of the Orang Asli, who have limited recourse to justice. “The Federal Government’s decision to sue on behalf of Orang Asli land encroachment earlier this year, while commendable, is but one step in a long history of the disenfranchisement of the Orang Asli, ” added Suhakam.

It said that it regrets the “continuing state-sanctioned and systematic violations” of rights of the Orang Asli involving both public and private entities, which signifies outright hostility to deprive the people of their livelihood and movement.

Suhakam also reminded the Pakatan Harapan government its commitment under Promise 38 of its election manifesto that it would advance the interests of Orang Asli in the Peninsular through several measures, among others, implementing the recommendations from Suhakam’s National Inquiry, ensuring that Orang Asli receive better land protections and to carry out a complete study to accurately identify the boundaries of customary land.

The Commission also said that it had met the Perak Mentri Besar last September to address the Orang Asli land rights and other issues related to the community.

“The Chief Minister informed the Commission that the State Government would engage with the Orang Asli community to discuss the issues raised.

“Suhakam is currently seeking a follow-up meeting, ” it added.

On Monday (July 29), Ahmad Faizal said that there is no such thing as Orang Asli ancestral land (tanah adat) in the state.

He said the term was not recognised in the state constitution, and it would be worrisome if all races started to make such claims.

He was commenting on the standoff between loggers and Orang Asli, who claimed to be defending their ancestral land in Kampung Sungai Papan.

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