C4: Kelantan government has failed the Orang Asli

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 ) wants an immediate stop to logging in Gua Musang and for the Kelantan and federal governments to discuss the issue with the Orang Asli community there.

C4 is hoping that the three parties will arrive at an amicable solution to the problem of logging that has been plaguing the lives of the Orang Asli.

The NGO said it supported the blockade put up by the Orang Asli in a few parts of Gua Musang.

“We will also be contributing four sets of generators to the Orang Asli community manning the current blockade and we will be visiting them in the coming days to lend our support,” said Cynthia Gabriel and Sudhagaran Stanley, the executive director and northern region coordinator respectively of C4, in a statement today.

About 800 Orang Asli have formed blockades in parts of Gua Musang to stop lorries from going in and out of the areas in protest against extensive logging and mining activities.

The chairman of Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli in Kelantan, Mustafa Along, said they had no choice but to do this.

“We depend on the forest for our livelihood. But since the logging by private companies, our livelihood is affected. We also depend greatly on the forest to carry out our rituals but with extensive logging, the size of the forest is getting smaller,” he told FMT recently.

C4 today welcomed the call by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar for parties involved to find a long term solution to the problem.

“It is way past the time for federal and state agencies to look into the matter seriously. The discussion by all parties should be based on the rights of the Orang Asli to their land and for the preservation of their heritage and culture.”

The duo said in the statement that the Orang Asli were “our treasures of civilisation, reminding us of how once our ancestors lived and survived in the jungle”.

Today, they said, the Orang Asli’s existence and way of life was under serious threat, especially in Kelantan, due to the state government’s “short cuts to revenues, and lack of clarity on their legal status”.

“The Kelantan government has total disregard for the rights of the Orang Asli community living in the state’s forest and has for many years ill-treated them. Their rights are not respected, their land is robbed for profits, their culture and heritage are being destroyed. Despite them being the indigenous community of Malaysia, they are treated like aliens on their own land.”

C4 has constantly expressed concern over deforestation in Kelantan. In fact, in 2015, it held a fact finding mission to investigate the massive floods that had hit the state that year causing hundreds of millions in damages and the lives of 21 people. Their report showed evidence that massive logging had contributed to the devastating floods.

Among the recommendations in the report were to improve the management of forests, to map and gazette Orang Asli land and to be fully transparent on how concessions are awarded and which logging companies are given licenses to log.

“The public seems to be in the dark over how these concessions are being awarded, what is the process of application, how much the state earns from these concessions and what is the selection criteria process. This only gives rise to possible corruption and abuse of power,” they said.

In 2016, C4 met with various high level officials including the Deputy Chief Minister of Kelantan Mohd Amar Abdullah, director of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission in Kelantan, Moh Samsudin Yusof and State Forestry Director, Zahari Ibrahim over this.

“Three years have passed, and it is heartbreaking to note that the Orang Asli community in Kelantan is still fighting to defend its land from encroachment.

“The state government’s heavy reliance on revenues from concessions and logging is a big threat to sustainable development and the lives of the Orang Asli community and their forest. They seem to be lacking in ideas to gain revenues from other sources and this is an example of poor governance in the state. This must urgently change if they hope to regain a mandate from the people of Kelantan in 2018.”

They called on the Kelantan government to allow for the public viewing of details of the areas which have been awarded to private companies and to take strict enforcement action against companies that encroached into other land.

There should also be a mechanism where the Orang Asli could object to related lands being awarded to private companies, they added.

In addition, they said, the Kelantan government should ensure that all parties respect a court ruling barring loggers from entering Pos Balar.

“Since that ruling, we are aware that the loggers are now destroying the land surrounding Pos Balar, such as in Kuala Wok. If the state actually has allowed the loggers to enter into these areas, then the state is complicit in circumventing the court order.”