Mohd Amar: Welfare of Orang Asli our primary concern

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PETALING JAYA: The welfare of the Orang Asli matters more to the Kelantan state government than the losses incurred from the stop-work order on logging activities there.

Kelantan Deputy Menteri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah was quoted as saying this in The Star today, in response to the standoff between the Orang Asli of the Temiar tribe and loggers near the Balah forest reserve in Gua Musang, since last week.

Mohd Amar said he was willing to meet the native groups to discuss the problem, as long as they were “sincere in ending the blockade and don’t ask for the sun and the moon.”

“The orang asli groups met the Kelantan government together with lawyer Siti Kassim and they asked us to allocate at least 22 hectares of virgin forest for every two Orang Asli families in the Balah forest reserve.

“The government is studying the proposal, along with other proposals to gazette the forest for the Orang Asli,” he was quoted as saying.

He added the losses incurred from the stop-work order mattered little to the state government, as the “lives and welfare of the Orang Asli” were of primary concern.

Last Wednesday, over 200 Orang Asli residents staged a protest against logging activities in the forest reserve and set up blockades to prevent logs from being taken out from the area.

The natives alleged that the disputed area was their customary land and loggers were encroaching into their rightful hunting grounds. The loggers meanwhile claimed they had valid licences to fell trees in the area.

The Kelantan state government has issued a temporary stop-work order on two companies logging at the forest reserve while it attempts to arrive at an amicable closure to the standoff.