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BN’s commitment to indigenous rights

“We open our ears to whatever grouses the public, in particular the Orang Asli, have. If anyone says we are depriving them, we are neglecting them, that’s not true.”

RURAL and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal, speaking to reporters after receiving a memorandum from the Orang Asli protesting proposed changes to the Orang Asli land policy. In an unprecedented move, more than 2,000 Orang Asli participated in the 17 Mar 2010 protest march at Putrajaya against the new land policy.

The government plans to give each Orang Asli household two to six acres of land to cultivate under the policy. The Orang Asli however say the policy is unfair as it will deprive them of their rights to a further 200,000 acres of customary land.  (Source: Cops halt Orang Asli advance on Putrajaya, Malaysiakini, 17 Mar 2010)

“If they are unhappy, they can submit their views on it and the department concerned will scrutinise it. If there is any proposition which is reasonable, we will do what is necessary.”

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, assuring reporters that reasonable demands from the Orang Asli would be taken into account. (Source: Cops halt Orang Asli advance on Putrajaya, Malaysiakini, 17 Mar 2010)

“…on February 13, 1996 the Sepang Land Administrator gave written notices to the plaintiffs to vacate the land within 14 days failing which enforcement action would be taken. The plaintiffs did not comply for obvious reasons. They were not happy with the amount of compensation…”

“On March 21, 1996, the plaintiffs were asked by the Sepang police to report at the Dengkil police station to collect their compensation cheques [for their fruits trees, crops and structures]. Only the third and seventh plaintiffs collected the cheques.

“On March 22 and 27, 1996 the plaintiffs were evicted from the land by a police operation with support from the FRU in the presence of the officials from the Sepang District Office, the second and third defendants and of the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (JHEOA). The fruit trees and the crops on the land were destroyed, the houses, the Balai Raya and the Balai Adat of the Temuan community thereat were demolished.”

Then High Court judge Datuk Mohd Noor Ahmad, setting out the facts of the case when delivering the landmark judgment of Sagong bin Tasi v Selangor State Government in 2002. The Temuan community who had occupied the land for at least 210 years were given only 14 days by the then Barisan Nasional-led Selangor government to evacuate. (Source: Sagong bin Tasi v Selangor State Government, 12 April 2002)

“Here you have a case where the very authority — the State — that, enjoined by the law to protect aborigines, turned upon them and permitted them to be treated in a most shoddy, cruel and oppressive manner. It is my earnest hope that an episode such as this will never be repeated.”

Then Court of Appeal judge Datuk Gopal Sri Ram commenting on the state’s treatment of the Temuan community in the Sagong Tasi case when affirming the High Court judgment. The Selangor government, by then under the Pakatan Rakyat, withdrew its appeal to the Federal Court. (Source: Selangor State Government v Sagong bin Tasi (2005))

“The land belongs to the government but as Orang Asli residents, we were allowed to work on the empty lots. So we planted oil palm trees two years ago. Now when the trees are growing, [the government] came without any notice and began clearing the area until we told them to stop on Oct 23.”

Orang Asli representative Othman Gudih speaking at a 10 June 2009 protest by about 70 Orang Asli families against the government’s clearing of their oil palm crops in Rompin. The government reportedly intends to use the land for a government agricultural project.

The Orang Asli claimed that the JHEOA district office were slow to provide assistance and did not respond to their complaints. Another resident told the press that many had spent money and even taken loans to plant the trees, which would now not be able to yield any profit. (Source: Orang Asli protest clearing of land, New Straits Times, 6 Nov 2009)

“The Orang Asli community is unique compared to other ethnic groups in Malaysia. Unlike other communities, Orang Asli culture, identity and nationhood is inextricably linked to their customary lands. Land is central to the identity of an Orang Asli person, providing physical, cultural, economic and spiritual nourishment.”

“It is thus puzzling that the proposed land policy disregards Orang Asli customary lands. Whilst it is true that economic independence is vital to Orang Asli well-being, it should not be toyed with at the expense of their identity.”

Aliran member Yogeswaran Subramaniam who is currently writing a doctoral thesis on Orang Asli land rights. (Source: Proposed Orang Asli land policy: Planned poverty?, Aliran, 16 Mar 2010)

“Regrettably, many in [the Orang Asli] community are among the poorest in Malaysia, a manifestation of their marginalisation and disenfranchisement from mainstream society. More than 50% of the Orang Asli, for example, live below the poverty line in this day and age when poverty levels in Malaysia are well below 3%.”

Yogeswaran writing on Orang Asli rights after a group of over 100 were prevented by the police from walking to the palace on 13 Sept 2008 to present a memorandum to the Yang diPertuan Agong. (Source: A wish list too far?, Aliran, 18 Dec 2008)

“Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.”

“Indigenous peoples shall not be forcibly removed from their lands or territories. No relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation, and, where possible, with the option of return.”

Articles 1 and 10 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Malaysia has supported and voted for in the UN General Assembly.

“Mereka datang bukan untuk protes tetapi untuk berjalan-jalan melawat Putrajaya dan kita juga bagi mereka makan-makan.”

“Mereka juga datang untuk cuti sekolah hendak ambil gambar di Putrajaya sebab mereka cuma tengok Putrajaya dalam televisyen.

More comments from Shafie, speaking to reporters after the 17 Mar 2010 Orang Asli protest. (Source: Tanah ‘ditipu’, Orang Asli protes di Putrajaya, Malaysiakini, 17 Mac 2010) favicon

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2 Responses to “BN’s commitment to indigenous rights”

  1. Keruah says:

    Shafie Apdal also claimed in Parliament that “outsiders” were stirring up opposition among Orang Asli against the land grabs. This minister seems to view Orang Asli as children, unable to think for themselves, just as Sarawak ministers say the Penan timber and plantation blockades are “instigated by outsiders”. In denying that Orang Asli and Penan can exert their human right to assemble and protest, the Shafie Apdals and Alfred Jabus of this world are trying to deny them their humanity. They obviously consider these “primitive” indigenous groups as subhuman. In truth, it is the ministers’ ignorant and offensive statements that reveal a primitive mindset. They speak words of power, lording it over the voiceless. They display the feudal, racist thinking of the 19th century, that has no place in Malaysia.

  2. Tan says:

    Funny thing happening in Malaysia. Some people came over to your land and set up a Jabatan to protect you and talk about your rights. And claim themselves as Tuan. This is ridiculous.

    If they are sincere in helping out, there has to be communication, it can’t be consecutive policy making without efforts in trying to understand them.

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