Despite 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 Network of Malaysia) said today. calling off
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'.
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.