Siti Kasim: Putrajaya reluctant to back Kelantan’s Orang Asli

Siti Kasim rejects the argument that Putrajaya cannot not step in because the issue involves land coming under state jurisdiction.

KUALA LUMPUR: Human rights activist Siti Kassim has accused Putrajaya of unwillingness to muster the political will to stop the Kelantan government from siding with logging and plantation companies in their long-drawn dispute with the Orang Asli community in the state.

Speaking to FMT, she said the federal government has enough power to prevent state agencies from dismantling blockades put up by the Orang Asli to obstruct entry into their settlements.

She rejected the argument that Putrajaya could not step in because the issue involved land coming under state jurisdiction, although she said the new government’s efforts to attempt to solve the issue were nevertheless laudable.

“The federal government can intervene because Jakoa (the Department of Orang Asli Development) is a federal body,” she said, adding that the state government would be forced to comply if the department told it to stop removing the blockades.

“It’s just a matter of political will,” she said.

“So use your powers.

“The federal government is more powerful than the state, for heaven’s sake.”

Last Sunday, state enforcement officers removed a blockade set up by the Temiar Orang Asli community in Gua Musang to stop encroachments.

The Orang Asli have been putting up blockades since two years ago to keep out loggers and planters from what they claim to be their customary land.

The Kelantan government insists that the land belongs to the state and has issued licences for logging.

Earlier this month, about 200 Orang Asli met Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to ask for Putrajaya’s intervention in their dispute with the state government.

Mahathir said the government would look at the issue from the legal angle to find the best immediate solution.

But Siti said Putrajaya could, in the meantime, impose a moratorium on state action against the blockades.

“You can’t just say, ‘We’re working on it’ while loggers and planters are going in and destroying the land,” she said.

“The most important thing to do now is to impose a moratorium, and then quickly find a solution.”

Siti also said it was possible that Pakatan Harapan was reluctant to act because it did not want to upset PAS, which rules Kelantan.

“But since when had PAS leaders cared about anyone else but themselves?” she quipped.