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‘Treatment of Orang Asli in Kelantan deplorable’

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I was dismayed to read about the arrest of 41 Orang Asli from the Temiang community over their anti-logging blockade in Gua Musang. This is something I did not expect from a state government which claims to be guided by the principles of justice and moral righteousness.

Suhakam has declared that native customary rights over land are a human rights issue and the authorities should not have taken such drastic and aggressive action against these defenceless people. The state government of Kelantan is violating the human rights of the Orang Asli by this high-handed treatment of the people of the land.

Sarawakians are very aware of this issue as the natives in Sarawak have been facing the same problem for many years. The rights of the Orang Asli and those of the natives of Sarawak are the same. The Sarawakian natives have the same lifestyle as the Orang Asli - they are dependent on the land and forest for survival. We have been fighting for the rights of the natives of Sarawak for a long time and we fully empathise with the Orang Asli over their plight.

The problems of the Temiang people arose from logging activities encroaching into their land and polluting their rivers. This is a common problem in Sarawak. The decision in our landmark NCR case of Nor Nyawai adopted the decision in Adong Kuwau (against the Johor government) which established the concept of native title in Malaysian law, and Nor Nyawai was eventually affirmed in the case of Sagong Tasi (against the Selangor government).

These cases established that the Orang Asli have rights over both gazetted and ungazetted land and that deprivation of these rights amounted to deprivation of their livihood.

The rights of the Orang Asli under statute and common law had been upheld in our Courts and as such they must be respected by the authorities.

I urge the authorities to release the Orang Asli immediately and the government to review their policies on the issuance of timber licences. It is a shame and an embarrassment that the Kelantan government should treat the people of the land so badly.


BARU BIAN is the state assemblyperson for Ba’ Kelalan and Sarawak PKR chairperson.

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