Retract statement and apologise, Perak MB urged

PETALING JAYA: Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu (pic) has come under more fire for saying that there is no such thing as ancestral land for Orang Asli under the state constitution.

Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Villages Network chairman Tijah Yok Chopil is now asking Ahmad Faizal to retract his statement and apologise as she said his action contrasted Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto, which promised to be considerate towards Orang Asli issues and recognise their ancestral land.

Tijah said ancestral land or tanah adat was not something given or bought but passed from one generation to the next and was full of elements of local history, legend, customary law and rules to preserve its sanctity.

“For a long time, Orang Asal have brought many claims of land rights and customary territory to the courts.

“Almost all of the claims filed were won with the court recognising that the land that was being lived on, used, managed and preserved as well as protected for generations by a community in a customary territory was ancestral land, ” Tijah said yesterday.

On Tuesday, DAP national legal bureau chairman Ramkarpal Singh said that not recognising Orang Asli customary land rights was wrong.

Jaringan Perkampungan Orang Asli Johor chairman Dolah Tekoi said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad should replace “anti-Orang Asli” Ahmad Faizal with someone more positive in championing the people’s rights.

Dolah believes that the current issue was not due to the weaknesses of Perak state laws but caused by Ahmad Faizal’s arrogance.

“As an activist and Orang Asli, I’m very disappointed with his leadership because we thought our position would be better under Pakatan but the opposite has happened, ” he said in a statement.

Activist and lawyer Siti Kasim said Ahmad Faizal had at his disposal the advice of the state legal adviser and could have asked the Attorney General on the status of Orang Asli land rights before commenting.

“This is not the first time he said it, he was corrected by many lawyers and NGOs but he keeps on saying the same thing, ” she said.

Siti cited the case of Pos Simpor near Gua Musang, where the Federal Government had earlier this year filed a civil suit against the Kelantan government for violating Orang Asli native land there.

“Pakatan leaders should reprimand or discipline him because he is upsetting a lot of Pakatan supporters, he must do something or apologise to the public, ” she said.

Center for Orang Asli Concerns executive director Dr Colin Nicholas said the Orang Asli were not asking for other people’s land but just wanted recognition of their rights to their customary land, which several courts in the peninsula had held to be their right under common law and in accordance with the Federal Constitution.

“In fact, in Perak there is a precedent where the court has ordered the Perak state government to recognise and gazette Orang Asli customary land as an Orang Asli reserve. This is the Kampung Kuala Senta case of 2014 in Bidor district, ” said Colin in a statement.

Minority Rights Action Party secretary-general R. Kanna called on the immediate intervention of the Prime Minister.

Kanna also noted that the Orang Asli’s ancestral land was recognised by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Declaration of Minorities Rights 1992.

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