Suaram: We didn’t incite Orang Asli to erect blockades

Suaram says the blockades were already in place when the human rights body went into the village. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: A non-governmental organisation (NGO) helping Temiar Orang Asli villagers in the ongoing standoff with logging and plantation companies in Gua Musang said they did not work with the local tok batin (headmen).

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) coordinator Amir Abdul Hadi said even young Orang Asli were not willing to follow the village headmen who were appointed by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

Amir, who was in Gua Musang last weekend, also said the blockades were already in place when the human rights body went into the village.

“So there is no issue about us inciting the Orang Asli to erect the barricades.

“Suaram merely offered assistance to the villagers,” he said, adding that the barricades were also not obstructing anyone’s passage.

Amir was responding to claims by a village headman today that NGOs with vested interests had instigated some of the villagers to put up the blockades.

Aside from Suaram, a local network of NGOs along with environmental group Peka have also been assisting the villagers.

This morning, Pos Bihai tok batin Awin Pedik handed over a memorandum urging Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to intervene to end the blockades and restore the peace and security in the area.

Awin claimed that none of the NGOs had approached the village headmen and engaged with them on the issue.

He said he had appealed to the NGOs not to interfere with the Orang Asli, adding that the plantation in the area provided work and income to the villagers.

His visit to Putrajaya came a week after some 200 Orang Asli from 17 settlements in Gua Musang met Mahathir to seek his help to resolve the issue of encroachment by logging and agricultural firms into their ancestral land.

The villagers had erected barricades to keep out the intruders, and the most recent blockade was mounted two Saturdays ago.

Blockades have been put up over the past six to seven months.