Suhakam slams Perak MB’s dismissal of Orang Asli rights to land

Suhakam says there has been a rise in illegal land-grabbing and encroachment of Orang Asli land.

PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has slammed Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu for saying that the Perak state constitution does not provide for customary land (tanah adat) for any indigenous or ethnic group, including the Orang Asli.

The human rights body called his comments “wilfully ignorant, offensive and disrespectful to the Orang Asli”, adding that their rights were protected under the Federal Constitution through laws such as the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 as well as in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“Native Customary Rights (NCR) lands are protected under the Land Codes of each of the states based on gazettement, though these are not comprehensive and many areas are still not recognised as Orang Asli land,” it said in a statement.

Suhakam added that a general lack of recognition by public authorities, state governments and private companies has resulted in an increase in illegal land-grabbing and encroachment of Orang Asli land.

Such encroachment, it said, does not appear to be diminishing, despite the recent decision of the Ipoh High Court in favour of the Orang Asli.

A group of 35 Semai natives had filed a suit against the federal government and the Perak state government in April last year to stop the development of a mini hydroelectric dam by Perak Hydro and Conso Hydro.

The suit named Perak Hydro Renewable Energy Corporation Sdn Bhd, Conso Hydro RE Sdn Bhd, the Perak Land and Mines director as well the Orang Asli Development Department director-general as defendants.

The developers later filed an application to strike out the suit, which was dismissed by the court last May.

Suhakam also questioned the arrest of three Temiar people for their role in a human barricade in Gerik, saying it undermined the rights of the Orang Asli, who have limited recourse to justice.

The body also urged the Pakatan Harapan government to fulfil its commitments under Promise 38 of the GE14 election manifesto, which states that it would advance the interests of Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Suhakam regrets the continuing state-sanctioned and systematic violations of rights of the Orang Asli, involving both public and private entities, which signifies outright hostility to deprive a people of their livelihood and movement.”

It added that it was currently seeking a follow-up meeting with the Perak MB after meeting him in September last year.

Suhakam said at the September meeting, the MB had informed the commission that the Perak state government would engage with the Orang Asli community to discuss the issues raised.