Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Let orang asli manage their plantations

Tuesday June 24, 2008

THE Perak Government wants the Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA) to surrender oil palm and rubber plantation it manages on behalf of the orang asli.

State executive councillor Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu said he was confident that the orang asli were capable of running their own plantations which were currently run by third parties.

“This is not right. The orang asli are professionals and most of them are graduates.

“By right, they should get their land back,” said Mohd Osman, the state Tourism, Hu-man Development and Non-governmental Organisations Committee chairman, after Yayasan Orang Asli Perak’s (YOAP) annual general meeting in Ipoh recently.

He was responding to complaints by YOAP chairman Suki Mee that the orang asli were being victimised as they were not allowed to run their own plantations.

Mohd Osman said he would check the terms and conditions, both federal agencies, to determine if there was a loophole.

Suki said the orang asli had 18 plantations in Perak covering some 7,200ha which had been contracted to Risda Smallholders Plantations Sdn Bhd and other companies to manage.

He said the problem began 15 years ago when the federal government decided to take land reserved for orang asli and develop it through JHEOA on behalf of those who had little capital.

The department then tasked Risda with the job, with the understanding that the plantations would be returned to the orang asli after four years, said Suki.

“But until now, this has not been done. JHEOA tells us that we are not ready or not capable enough. But we are capable. This is our land,” he added.

The orang asli were only given low dividends as infrequently as once a year, said Suki.

He said he planned to propose that the government set up an orang asli advisory committee on all matters that affected the community.

Perak Orang Asli Affairs Department director Mohd Zamri Mustajap could not be reached for comment.

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