Perak demolishes Orang Asli blockade at timber camp near Gerik

Orang Asli protest logging near their homes at Kampung Tasik Cunex, Gerik.

PETALING JAYA: A blockade on state land at the Kampung Tasik Cunex Orang Asli settlement in Gerik, Perak, was demolished today by the Perak government.

The operation was carried out this morning without any untoward incident, said Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu.

“After considering all complaints, as well as the legal aspects, the state government decided to allow enforcement to be carried out to remove the blockade, built without permission,” he said in a statement today.

The Orang Asli community in the village had previously claimed that state authorities had encroached onto their land to carry out logging.

This prompted minister in charge of national unity, P Waytha Moorthy, to step in to solve a dispute between a logging company and a group of Orang Asli residents who set up the blockade.

Jakoa, or the Department of Orang Asli Development, had also called for a suspension of all logging activities near the settlement in Gerik.

Orang Asli protesting against the logging at Kampung Tasik Cunex, Gerik. (Facebook pic)
A lorry laden with timber at Kampung Tasik Cunex, Gerik. (Facebook pic)

In the same statement, Faizal sought to dispel claims made by the villagers that the authorities had threatened them with weapons while escorting the logging company staff to send food to workers in the logging site in March.

Faizal said investigations revealed that the allegation was baseless, and that the authorities had merely brought weapons for the purpose of safety. No threats were made against the villagers, he said.

“The state government also wishes to deny that logging activities in the area were carried out in a ‘cuci mangkuk’ manner (recklessly and against the law).

“For everyone’s information, all logging activities approved are carried out in a sustainable manner, where only trees which follow standards are allowed to be chopped down using the tagging method.

“The state government has consistently ensured logging activities do not exceed the Annual Logging Ration, which is 7,744ha a year, as required by the National Land Council,” he said.

Faizal said on April 3, a notice to open the blockade had been issued to the settlers by the Gerik Land and Mines Office, informing that the blockade was erected on state land, and that it was in violation of Section 425(1) of the National Land Code 1965, which provides for “settling or building any structures on any government land, reserve, or mining land”.

He said to prevent any confrontation with villagers, the logging company had tried using an alternative route to retrieve the logs which had been chopped down, but this was also stopped by the settlers.

He stated that on April 9, the Land and Mines Office sent and put up a notice for the blockade to be torn down in two weeks.

The blockade was supposed to have been demolished on April 23 and the logging company did it on its own accord without involving any government agency.

“Villagers then objected and tried to stop the lorries from retrieving their logs on April 23 by forming a human shield. The issue has been sensationalised by certain NGOs that claim the company was bullying the Orang Asli community.

“On the back of that incident, separate police reports were lodged by the representative of the settlers, as well as a representative of the company.

“Investigations are ongoing, and if there are any criminal elements or violence involved, action will be taken in accordance with the law,” he added.