KUALA LUMPUR, 29 June 2009: Representatives from an indigenous community have submitted a memorandum to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) parliamentarians to protest the Pahang government’s refusal to gazette traditional Orang Asli lands.
The memorandum today also protested the state government’s go-ahead for estate owners to open plantations on traditional Orang Asli lands.
“It is our intention to defend the traditions and culture of our community,” said Yusri Ahon, deputy secretary of Kg Orang Asli Sg Mai, Jerantut.
Yusri said that a Pahang state executive council meeting in 1997 had decided that all lands occupied by the indigenous communities should be converted to federal reserve land under Section 7(1) of the Orang Asli Act 1954.
Under the same law, the state government also refused to gazette lands occupied by the Orang Asli, he added.
“We are indigenous peoples, but it is as if we are renting land owned by the government,” Yusri said.
He added that some of the land lost to the Orang Asli community under the Pahang government’s policy included ancestral burial grounds.
“These losses (of land) have also resulted in our community’s forsaking of traditional practices such as the planting of padi huma (hill paddy),” Yusri said.
The Orang Asli currently claim some 127,706 ha of land on Peninsular Malaysia. Under a new land policy mooted by then-Rural and Regional Development Minister Tan Sri Muhammad Muhammad Taib in November 2008, the peninsula’s indigenous peoples stand to lose up to 69,698 ha of land.
At a press conference in Parliament today, PKR Member of Parliament (MP) for Kuantan, Fuziah Salleh, said that she would do everything in her power to deliver the memorandum to the Barisan Nasional-led Pahang government.