Minister in the Prime Minister's Department P Waythamoorthy has rebuffed claims by certain quarters who reportedly believe that the Kuala Langat (North) forest reserve is no longer "suitable for keeping".
On the contrary, Waythamoorthy, whose portfolio includes Orang Asli affairs, said the forest reserve was important to four native villages which are home to 1,049 people.
"Even though the proposed development area does not directly involve the Orang Asli villages, it is their traditional foraging and hunting grounds since 1845 which had been recognised as the Sakai tribe's ancestral land," he said in a statement today.
He said this ever-shrinking land is where the local Orang Asli harvest natural resources such as bamboo, rattan, herbal medicines, and wild game, as well as grow oil palms, rubber and fruit trees.
Previously, Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari had defended the plans to degazette the 930-hectare reserve, stating that 40 percent of the forest had already “degraded”.
He also pledged that the state government would be gazetting a larger area as a replacement.
In a statement yesterday, Amirudin stressed that degazetting was not final and that all views, including that of the Orang Asli, would be taken into account.
Waythamoorthy said the Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) was not opposed to development but that it must take into account the rights and welfare of the Orang Asli to carry out their traditions, culture, and way of life.
He hoped the state government will hold discussions with Jakoa regarding the degazetting plans soon.