Sunday, September 14, 2008

Police stop march for Orang Asli rights

Do you know only the indigenous people of Malaysia can rightly call me "squatter"? And I can accept that. But not any other. Indigenous people have suffered. Land raped. Forest logged. They are being ill treated in their own land in a country called Bodohland.
NST Online
By Evangeline Majawat

KUALA LUMPUR: Police yesterday stopped a march by a group of indigenous people seeking greater protection of their rights.

Some 150 members of the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia (JOAS) had planned to go to Istana Negara to hand over a memorandum to the king.

The memorandum was to urge the government to honour the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People (DRIP), to which Malaysia is a signatory.

Their demands included the establishment of an Orang Asli native court in Peninsular Malaysia, the repeal of laws which marginalise the Orang Asal or indigenous people and an end to the government's practise of leasing native customary rights land without consulting native communities.

Today is the first anniversary of the DRIP.

Dressed in traditional finery, the group had planned to walk from the Central Market Annexe to Istana Negara.

However, police ordered the group to disperse just as it stepped out of the building at 10.15am.

They claimed that police had earlier assured them that the march could go on.

"We were given assurances this morning.

"All we want is to walk to the palace to hand over the memorandum," JOAS president Adrian Lasimbang said.

Lasimbang said JOAS had sent letters to the authorities and palace officials two weeks ago to notify them of the march.

"But the police only responded two days ago. They sent us a letter asking us to go to the police station."

Dang Wangi police chief ACP Mohamad Zulkarnain Abdul Rahman said the police stopped the march because the organisers had failed to obtain a permit.

Forced to disperse, the group retreated into the Central Market building.

There, Lasimbang and two other JOAS representatives briefed the media on the contents of the memorandum.

The nine-page memorandum highlighted articles from the DRIP and the plight of the indigenous peoples of Malay-sia.

Among the issues were encroachment on native customary rights land, violation of the right to self-governance and pressures to assimilate.

"JOAS has carried out a study comparing the declaration with local policies concerning Orang Asal," said Lasimbang.

"It is sad that the policies don't meet the standards. We Orang Asal have been marginalised for so long.

"The government has a commitment to implement all policies according to the declaration

"The handing over of the memorandum to the king is a symbolic gesture.

"We want to create more awareness about our problems and hope the public will respect us," JOAS member Mark Bujang said.

He said the Orang Asli had been labelled "anti-development and anti-establishment" for decades.

"We're not anti-development. We just want it on our terms and any development must benefit our communities.

"We want to be included in the decision-making process."

Bujang said native land issues were especially important because the Orang Asli's identities were related to the land.

"Our lives are tied to the land. Land is sacred to us. How can you take our native land from us?"

Lifir Tangkak from the Jakun settlement of Kampung Buluh Nipis, Pahang, took an eight-hour bus ride to lend his support to the cause.

"The authorities don't recognise our rights. They take our land indiscriminately.

"This must stop," the 70-year-old said.


Indigenous peoples: Listen to our cries

Rahmah Ghazali Sep 13, 08

Despite calling off a march to the King’s palace to submit a memorandum, our spirits are not broken and we will continue to voice our disappointment towards the government, the Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia) said today.

In the memorandum, the network had protested the non-recognition of their customary lands, forced resettlement, non-recognition of cultural rights, unfair policies of assimilation and integration, and outright disregard for judicial decisions.

The march was planned in conjunction with the first anniversary of United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In the memorandum, the group highlighted several violations including Orang Asal rights as the land-owners.

“The federal and state governments have acted maliciously against the Orang Asal by forcibly taking our lands, territories and resources without our free, prior consent,” executive director of Borneo Resources Institute, Mark Bujang, told a press conference following the cancellation of the march this morning from police 'advice'.

Involuntary resettlement

Reading out the memorandum, Mark said in Selangor alone, about 7,000 hectares of Orang Asal reserves were degazetted without their knowledge. Neither were they informed when, where and how the areas were taken from them.

“In Sabah and Sarawak, an increasing number of communities are now finding out the hard way that their native customary lands have been given to oil palm and industrial tree plantation companies or leased to logging companies - again without their prior consent,” he added.

Furthermore, the Orang Asal have been subjected to force for involuntary resettlements because of government’s non-recognition of their native titles.

Mark cited as an example the forced resettlement of Chewong-Orang Asli community in the Kelau Dam project in Pahang where the indigenous people were intentionally misrepresented by the agents of the government and forced to resettle.

“To make matters worse, the indigenous community concerned need not be resettled as their village would not have been affected by the projects,” Mark explained.

Government should apologise

Among their demands, the Orang Asal have requested that customary land be returned and appropriate legal processes be taken for the restitution of the land obtained.

“The government must immediately halt the legal process to gazette land which indiscriminately acquire the indigenous customary lands,” said Mark.

He added the courts should prioritise cases involving customary land dispute and urged the government to provide legal assistance for their cases.

According to findings in the memorandum, the Orang Asal consist of more than 80 ethno-linguistic groups, each with its own culture, language and territory, totalling up to four million or 15 per cent of national population.

“In the context of Malaysia, however, no law or policy was found that mentions the right to self-determination for indigenous peoples, let alone, accord us that right,” said Mark.

According to him, the Orang Asal have suffered from injustices by previous regimes and governments since the formation of the government of Malaysia.

“Therefore, the government must apologise for all these injustices and prejudices that have happened throughout the history,” he stressed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting these stories. I could not agree more, indigenous peoples are the rightful owners of the land and their concerns need to be incorporated and valued. Keep up the fight.