Don’t play politics with native rights issues, says Sabah NGO

Sabah NGO Harus claims politicians have been meddling in native issues with no real regard for the rights of the indigenous people.

KOTA KINABALU: A local NGO championing the rights of the Orang Asli has urged politicians to stop meddling in native issues for the sake of gaining political mileage.

Speaking to FMT, Hak Asal Rakyat Untuk Sabah (Harus) spokesman Joseph Philip said lately, the group had noticed an increasing trend where politicians “interfere” in native issues with no real regard for the rights of the indigenous people.

“This includes the announcement made by Sabah Law and Native Affairs Minister Aidi Moktar that certain races of Indonesian origin would be considered natives of the land,” he said.

He said Harus was also unhappy that Aidi had tried to “mislead” the people by saying the appointment of village chiefs and village community management councils is done through a democratic process, especially in native villages.

He said this is untrue because even in his village, both posts were filled through political appointments and the villagers were never called to vote for their preferred leaders.

“On top of that, the state government and other politicians are treating the Native Court as if it is their political toy, changing the system according to their whim,” he said.

He agreed with former chief justice Richard Malanjum that the Native Court should be administrated by non-Muslims, saying the majority of native customs cannot be resolved by Muslims.

Besides, he said, the Muslims already have the Shariah Court to safeguard their rights.

“This month, we will be celebrating the Harvest Festival, an important festival for the native people. Unfortunately, I don’t know what we are celebrating, seeing that our rights continue to be trampled like this.

Harus spokesman Joseph Philip.

“Therefore, Harus has decided to organise a peaceful parade in Penampang on May 30 and later, assemble at the Penampang sports complex to announce our demands to the leaders in this state,” he said.

He said the group has 12 demands including for the protection of native rights, a clean-up of the electoral roll, an increase in border security and the cessation of any operation to document illegal immigrants. The group is also calling on the authorities to ensure that the Native Court is free from political influence, and that the correct information about the history of Sabah and Sarawak is included in the education syllabus.

“We also want the government to stop land grabbing, especially land belonging to the natives, to stop attacking native rights activists and to implement Borneonisation by providing ample and fair quota for natives in the public sector.”

The event will be called the Indigenous Walk 2019.