Saturday, November 2, 2013

Kelantan stealing our land, claims Orang Asli group

Orang Asli leaders have claimed that the Kelantan government is in cahoots with the Orang Asli Affairs Department (Jakoa) to usurp indigenous people's land rights, even as the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) report on the issue is being deliberated.

Several leaders from the east coast state came to Kuala Lumpur yesterday to submit a protest note to Suhakam, urging that the violation be immediately stopped.

Their voices have been muted, they said, and everyone - from PAS leaders to government officials and the police - have turned against them.

Despite that PAS has ruled Kelantan since 1990, party president Abdul Hadi Awang was ignorant of the issue.

NONEJamali Ayau, a member of Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan (JKOAK), chided Abdul Hadi for his remark made last month in Kuala Lumpur describing Orang Asli as "a wandering tribe" in need to embrace modernity.

"We are very disappointed. We affirm that Orang Asli in general and in Kelantan specifically, are not anti-development and modernity... but we reject development that carries destruction, environmental pollution and the loss of our livelihood," Jamali told reporters at the Suhakam headquarters.

Jamali added that the Kelantan state government was eyeing their land in Gua Musang, Lojing Highland and Neggiri which can be used for logging, mining and plantation projects - all of which gave nothing back to their community.

Orang Asli protest KelantanThe Kelantan government has rejected direct talks with Orang Asli but would only deal with the Jakoa, which is under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry. The Orang Asli groups have claimed that Jakoa did not respect their land rights.

Last month, for example, news agencies reported that Jakoa had begun surveying the Orang Asli land in Kelantan.

A senior JKOAK leader, Arom Asir, said Jakoa's real intention instead was to carve out a small piece and grant each Orang Asli household only two to six acres from their vast land reserve.

If they agreed, this would mean that much of their land would then automatically revert to being state-owned.

Orang Asli groups from other states have complained about this same government ploy elsewhere in the country. 

'Jakoa should be disbanded'

"Jakoa should be disbanded. It is not working for us but against us," Arom said.

Much of these complaints have surfaced in the Suhakam inquiry, which was released in August after nearly two years of fact gathering.

orang asli protest in putrajaya 170310Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak has received the report, but the government ordered a task force to study the report instead of implementing Suhakam's 18 recommended measures, which included setting up a tribunal on Orang Asli land rights.

Rodziah Abdul, the Suhakam official who accepted the memorandum of protest from JKOAK, told reporters that the government task force should probably finish its duty by January next year.

Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong and DAP MP Ong Kian Ming were among a growing community of Malaysians who recently urged the government to quickly settle the long-standing issue of Orang Asli land rights.

~ Malaysiakini

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