Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bar queries gov't delay in adopting Orang Asli report

10:06AM Aug 27, 2013 
The Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) report that addresses Orang Asli complaints on loss of land rights should be adopted by the government without delay, the Malaysian Bar says.
The study, released earlier this month, was submitted to Paul Low, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who then called for a task force to be set up to study it.

NONELow's  move "incongruous" as it attempts to duplicate two years of independent work by Suhakam, Bar president Christopher Leong said in a statement today.

"It will be superfluous if the entire national inquiry process and the Suhakam report are to be unravelled by the task force set up by the government, more so at the expense of public funds and resources," Leong said.

Saying that the report "strikes at the heart of the many challenges faced by the indigenous peoples", he urged the government to accept Suhakam’s recommendations.

Among the 18 recommendations Suhakam made is one for the establishment of a Indigenous Land Tribunal and another to reconcile past wrongdoings by returning land taken away or providing proper compensation.

Leong also said the Bar wants the Suhakam report to be tabled in Parliament, as was the original intent. The task force could be formed alongside this. 

Orang Asli protest KelantanCreating a task force to supercede the report would be “regrettable, in as much as it deprives our elected representatives of the opportunity of examining and debating the recommendations in Parliament, particularly based on their peculiar experiences in dealing with the indigenous peoples in their constituencies”.

Leong described the government's attempt to "review and verify" the report as puzzling as Suhakam has already involved all stakeholders, including the government itself, through the participation of the Orang Asli Development Department.

The Bar further urged the government to hold off any amendment to the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 until the Suhakam report is implemented.

The report is a culmination of a nationwide inquiry between December 2010 and June 2012, in response to numerous complaints by the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia and natives of Sabah and Sarawak that their customary rights to land have been violated.

Orang Asli NGOs have also accused the government of trying tosteal the land by pushing through new laws that were not vetted by representatives of the indigenous community.

~ Malaysiakini

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