Orang Asli NGO denies it is behind forest blockades

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PETALING JAYA: Orang Asli NGO Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) has denied involvement in the Kelantan Orang Asli anti-logging blockades.

This follows the state’s Forestry Department’s notice to the organisation demanding that it remove the blockades.

“We are not involved in the blockades although we have been defending the Orang Asli,” JOAS said when contacted by FMT today.

JOAS said that no commission members were at the blockade sites and attributed the blockades completely to the efforts of the Balah Forest Reserve’s Temiar Orang Asli community.

“The blockades at Pos Balah, Pos Pasik, Pos Tohoi and others are the villagers’ efforts to protect the remaining forests and their livelihood as Orang Asli.

“We dismiss the allegations that JOAS had incited the villagers as untrue,” JOAS president Yusri Ahon said.

The Forestry Department had released a notice addressed to JOAS and Jaringan Orang Asal Kelantan on Nov 6 ordering the evacuation of the “245th compartment” of the forest reserve.

JOAS urged the authorities to discuss the matter before proceeding with the directive, noting also that the government did not give any guarantee that there would be no more logging.

“We are very disappointed with the state government because they have not met with us even once since the issue arose in September to discuss this serious matter,” said JOAS deputy president Zuhdi Baharu.

At the same time, the Orang Asli villagers are expecting a clash with the authorities this Sunday, according to a report by Malaysiakini.

Blockade representative Kamal Alek said this morning at a press conference that about 200 of his family members and friends were “ready to sacrifice their lives” to protect the forest.

“There might be a clash but we will continue with our blockade.

“If they tear down the blockade, we will rebuild,” he said at the press conference.