Kg Cunex blockade masterminded by NGOs, says village leader

GERIK: A village leader claims that the blockade built by the Orang Asli community in Kampung Cunex to protect an area said to be ancestral land from being destroyed by logging activities was actually masterminded by NGOs including from outside Perak.

Kampung Sarok assistant head David Samsuddin, 30, said Kampung Cunex was built by Sarok residents who left the village in 2017 due to religious misunderstandings.

The group then allegedly trespassed and opened a new settlement in the Air Cepam forest reserve area, about 5km from the Dala resettlement plan which houses 1,358 residents in seven villages: Kampung Melela 1 and 2, Kampung Sungai Tengah, Kampung Bukit Nangka, Kampung Sungai Urat, Kampung Sungai Untong and Kampung Sungai Sarok.

“It was only recently that the issue of customary land came up. When they left, they did not bring up any issue about land. It is believed that this is being masterminded by NGOs, especially from outside Perak,” David said when met here recently.

According to David, some NGOs came to Kampung Sarok in March asking residents to fight for their customary land.

“Some of the NGO people said we, the Orang Asli, needed to support them (in the fight for customary land) because Kampung Sarok and the entire Orang Asli community have the right, but I didn’t want to get involved.

“They asked me if I wanted the logging activities to destroy our area. I replied that this is the state government’s project and don’t want to obstruct,” he added.

David said the residents of Kampung Sarok had never stood in the way of any action taken by the state government, including logging activities.

Asked if logging activities at the Air Cepam forest reserve were causing river pollution and affecting people’s livelihoods, David denied it and said the villagers only want what is best for them.

Members of the media have been unable to enter Kampung Cunex due to the blockade.

Since February, reports have been made about the blockade, a protest against logging activities which villagers claim has affected their source of income, causing pollution to the water catchment area and destroying the graves of their ancestors.

Residents of Kampung Cunex have also demanded that the state government recognise 12,465 hectares of land in Hulu Perak, Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Siput as ancestral land.

However, on July 29, Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu said there is no such thing as “tanah adat” or ancestral land for Orang Asli under the state constitution.

He said the state government had gazetted nearly 14,000 hectares of land for 70 Orang Asli settlements statewide under the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954.

Faizal also said the state government had initiated the process to gazette an additional 5,176 hectares of land for another 27 Orang Asli settlements, the biggest area gazetted by any state in Peninsular Malaysia.

On Aug 1, Faizal ordered a temporary halt to all logging activities near the Orang Asli settlement in Kampung Cunex.

The order was issued after Faizal held a meeting with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy and Attorney-General Tommy Thomas, to discuss the issue related to Kampung Cunex.

Faizal and Waytha in a joint statement said the federal and state governments were committed to achieving a fair and just solution to protect the interests of the Orang Asli community in the area.