An Orang Asli NGO has called for Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu to be replaced following his controversial statements negating indigenous land rights.
In a statement today, Johor Orang Asli Network (JPOAJ) chairperson Dolah Tekoi labelled Faizal “anti-Orang Asli,” and urged Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to remove him.
“We urge the prime minister to change the Perak menteri besar to someone who is more positive in defending the rakyat, as compared to (Faizal) who is more anti-Orang Asli," he said.
“He (Faizal) refuses to listen to the woes of the people and does not want to consult us on issues. He prefers confrontation.
“Rather than being constructive, he always issues statements that are confrontational, especially when it comes to the ancestral land of the Orang Asli."
Faizal was previously reported as saying that the Perak constitution does not recognise the existence of customary land (tanah adat) for the Orang Asli or any other ethnic group.
In recent weeks, six Temiar Orang Asli from a village in Gerik were arrested for barring loggers from encroaching onto what they claim is their customary land.
'A liability to Harapan'
Besides denying the claims about the Perak constitution, Dolah attributed Faizal's negation of customary land rights to his attitude towards the Orang Asli.
“We don’t believe there are weaknesses in the Perak constitution. This is more about his (Faizal's) sombong (arrogant) attitude.
“His stance reflects on the entire state government as he is the menteri besar,” he said.
The activist further cautioned that Faizal’s antics were causing Orang Asli voters to lose faith in the Pakatan Harapan government.
In a separate statement, Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Network (JKOASM) chairperson Tijah Yok Chopil (photo) similarly branded Faizal “disrespectful” towards both the community and the Harapan election manifesto.
She demanded an apology from the menteri besar over his comments.
“The Harapan presidential council and Bersatu should not remain silent on this and allow the Perak menteri besar to make statements or decisions about the Orang Asli or any other race.
“I urge the Perak menteri besar to retract his statement and apologise to all Orang Asli nationwide.
“Do not gamble Harapan’s future on your own arrogance,” she warned.
Harapan had promised in its manifesto to implement a thorough study to establish Orang Asli ancestral land.
Tijah highlighted that the Orang Asli were never consulted in the crafting of the Perak constitution or other laws pertaining to the community, thus causing them to have to fight for their customary land rights.
However, she pointed to former court judgements that had recognised the existence of these land rights.
Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) coordinator Colin Nicholas and DAP lawmaker Ramkarpal Singh contended yesterday that there is legal precedent for recognising Orang Asli land in Perak.
This was echoed by former Suhakam commissioner Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah, who urged Harapan to “educate” its state leaders on its own manifesto.