Monday, August 5, 2013

Govt forms task force on Orang Asli report

K Pragalath

August 5, 2013
Minister Paul Low dismisses the need for the Suhakam report to be tabled in parliament.
KUALA LUMPUR: The government has set up a national task force to look into the implementation of recommendations made by Suhakam in their national inquiry report concerning Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was released today.
The task force will be led by Integrity Institute of Malaysia chairman Mohd Tap Salleh and made up of government and NGO representatives from East and West Malaysia.
There is no time frame for the task force at present.
Speaking at a press conference after the report handover ceremony, Minister in Prime Minister’s Department, Senator Paul Low said the government would look into the interest of all parties.
“We will give it a balanced view in the best interest of the Orang Asli and see what can be implemented by the government,” said Paul Low after receiving the report on behalf of the cabinet.
The report is an outcome of a two-year nationwide consultation with the Orang Asli and other interested parties on the issue of aboriginal land.
FMT had previously reported the contents of the report which among others questioned the role of the Orang Asli Development Department in protecting the interest and welfare of the native community.
There are 18 recommendations with six themes pertaining to Orang Asli land and development.
The report is vital to the Orang Asli community in Peninsula Malaysia because they fear that their land would be taken away from them after amendments are made to the 1954 Aboriginal People’s Act.
Orang Asli groups which are against the amendments want the government to implement all 18 recommendations made in the report, which was completed in December 2012.
The amendments which are being pursued strongly by the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, is expected to take away up to 645,000 acres of land.
No tabling in parliament
Initially Suhakam planned to table the report in parliament on July 18 but that did not materialise.
Commenting on this matter, Low dismissed the necessity for the report to be tabled in parliament.
“It is not necessary for the report to be tabled in parliament. This way, it gives the government time to study and consult. Today the report is made public,” he said.
Meanwhile, Suhakam chairman Hasmy Agam said that he had initially wanted to make the report as ‘high-profile’ through parliament but is now happy with government’s engagement through a task force.
“We had submitted reports previously but nothing happened. This is good. It is still proactive.
“Suhakam will work closely with the task force,” he said.
Low also said that the Orang Asli Act will not be amended prior to the study by the task force.
“To my knowledge there are no amendments,” he said when asked on the Rural and Regional Development Ministry’s plans to amend the Orang Asli Act.
Lawyer for the Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Villages Network (JKOASM) S Yogeswaran who was also present said the event was a positive step; but he was cautious about the task force. S Yogeswaran is also the Bar Council’s Orang Asli committee co-chairman.
“We’ll need to look at the terms of reference and mandate of the task force.
“Also there is a question about the composition of the task force. It has to have a balanced representation,” he said.
~ Free Malaysia Today

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