Thursday, October 13, 2016

Forestry Dept bars lawyer from sending aid to Orang Asli blockade

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Lawyer Siti Kassim was yesterday blocked by officers of the Forestry Department from sending food and supplies to her clients in the Pos Tohoi Orang Asli settlement in Gua Musang, Kelantan.

Her clients have mounted a blockade against logging in the area since Sept 26.

She added the authorities had also put up a signboard barring all suppliers and traders from entering the village.

"The signboard (barring entry by suppliers) effectively prohibits most, if not all of the Orang Asli, from surviving in the jungle.

"You see what they are trying to do? I do," she wrote on Facebook.

According to a video posted on Siti's Facebook page, the Forestry Department officers turned her away because she did not have a permit to enter a gazetted forest reserve.

The officers cited Section 47(e) of the Forestry Act 1948 which states that no entry is allowed into forest reserves unless they have written permission from the Forestry Department director, and are entering for the reason stated on the permit.

To this, Siti questioned why they are only blocking access now when loggers have been using this path with no consequence.

She also stressed that she was invited by the villagers, and that a lawyer cannot be barred from accessing her clients.

"A prison is also a restricted area, but a lawyer can access his/her client there," she said.

The officers then insisted that this is an instruction they must comply with and advised her to obtain a permit to enter from the state Forestry Department in Kota Baru.

Kelantan Forestry Department director Zahari Ibrahim confirmed the directive, The Star reported.

"Why do you think they are doing this? Exercising their duty? Or something more sinister?

"We are lodging police reports for denying access to my clients and stopping supplies to the Orang Asli," Siti wrote on Facebook.

Jaringan Kampung Orang Asal Kelantan Mustafa Along said the blockade will continue even without supplies.
 
"We will hold out without food (from outside). We have tapioca that we can eat,” he reportedly told The Star.
Some 200 villagers last month put up a blockade to prevent logs from leaving the area, but their blockade was reportedly disrupted by "thugs".

Police reports were lodged and the Kelantan police have vowed to investigate the matter.

The Orang Asli are blocking the logging as they claim deforestation is affecting their water and food sources.

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