MCA Kelantan: Let Orang Asli keep their land

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PETALING JAYA: MCA Kelantan has spoken out in defence of the state’s Orang Asli, urging the state government to allow the tribal communities there to keep their settlements.

This comes following recent news that thugs and workers tried to break an Orang Asli blockade on a logging trail between Pos Tohoi and Pos Simpo, located about two and a half hours from Gua Musang.

The blockade, which was set up on Monday, was part of an initiative by the Orang Asli to drive loggers out from what they claim is their ancestral land.

“I witnessed firsthand the extensive damage that excessive logging has inflicted on the indigenous people there, whereby soil erosion has cut off road links from the interior to the town,” said MCA Kelantan Liaison Committee Secretary Lua Choon Hann in a statement today.

“I do not see any logic in PAS’s exhortation of ‘protecting the forest reserve’ for logging purposes.”

Lua criticised the Kelantan Forestry Department for issuing licences for clearing logs, and then forcibly evicting Orang Asli communities who had been living in the area since the 1980s.

He also questioned how loggers had obtained licences for the felling of logs in the Permanent Reserve Forest (PRF), given that the land was supposed to be conserved as a water catchment area and to stabilise the soil.

“It makes me wonder what type of ‘reforestation’ activities will remedy the area, as the pristine primary forest is now in its secondary state when it undergoes changes in tree composition and forest structure.

“The disturbed habitat raises concerns of whether the forest will still be able to provide its ecological services.”

Lua pointed out that the matter would cast a negative light on Prime Minister Najib Razak in his battle against the palm oil label issue in Europe.

“If this illegal logging issue were to be blown up by the media and NGOs, what will the Europeans think of our country?

“It also makes one wonder if the PRF will be converted to other land status and eventually be earmarked for commercial development.”