Thursday, December 1, 2016

47 Orang Asli released, more feared arrested in separate crackdown

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The 47 Orang Asli activists arrested in a crackdown on an anti-logging blockade in Pos Petei, Gua Musang, were released this afternoon, Jaringan Orang Asli Semenanjung representative Nasir Dollah said.

They were released at the Gua Musang district police headquarters round 3.30pm, after two days in remand.

However, Nasir said, it is feared more activists could have been detained in a Forestry Department operation against another anti-logging blockade at Pos Pasik in the Kelantan interior today.

"We don't know how many have been arrested as yet," he told Malaysiakini.

Lawyer Siti Kasim, who was at the Gua Musang district police headquarters, told the released group the Forestry Department agreed not to seek a remand for those arrested in Pos Pasik.

Siti said they were on the way to Gua Musang district police headquarters and would be released on police bail.

However, she stressed that police were only facilitating the Forestry Department operations.

The 47 released today also vowed to wait until their comrades from Pos Pasik are released before returning to their villages.

Video footage uploaded by activists on Facebook shows the group emerging from the police station with Malaysian flags in hand.

They are hugged by their friends and families, who shed tears of relief.

More than a dozen supporters also applauded the released activists and chanted slogans demanding that the rights of the Orang Asli be respected.

"Long live Orang Asli, respect our rights," they chanted.

The jubilant scene was a stark contrast with that yesterday, when Orang Asli women who gathered outside the police district headquarters sobbed over their arrested family members.

The first of three blockades was set up in September to stop logging, which the community said destroyed their water source.

The three blockades were set up to stop logging at the Balah, Perias and Stong Selatan forest reserves.

The state government said it leaves all decisions on the matter to police and the state Forestry Department.

"So there should not be intervention from any party until the investigations are over," Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob said in a statement.
PSM and seven other NGOs today urged the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and the Bar Council to mediate between the community and the state government.
This is because of distrust in the state government, which PSM said has accused outsiders of instigating the blockades.

However, not all native residents there agree with the blockade, with some arguing that protests are not the Orang Asli way.

Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah said that while the Orang Asli have valid grouses, they should not take the law into their own hands.

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