PETALING JAYA: An Orang Asli activist has disputed claims made by a supposed village head from Kampung Sarok that NGOs were the masterminds of the Kampung Cunex blockades against loggers.
Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) coordinator Colin Nicholas challenged the village leader to name the NGO he alluded to, adding that the Temiar tribe has been fighting for their land rights since the 1980s.
“To say that there are ‘masterminds’ is to imply that the Orang Asli don’t have the capacity and ability to think and act on their own,” said Colin.
“This is a very condescending statement and is strangely similar to how the loggers think.”
Colin told FMT that David Shamsuddin, who claimed to be the assistant head of Kampung Sarok, is merely the grandson of the head of the village and has close ties with loggers involved in the Kampung Cunex dispute near Gerik.
He also said the villagers of Kampung Cunex were originally from Keled, dismissing David’s claims that the tribesmen were originally from Kampung Sarok.
“In the 1970s, because of security reasons, they were asked to resettle in Kampung Agam. When the Kenering Dam submerged their land, they were then resettled in Kg Sarok Lama,” said Colin.
“They are not a breakaway from Kampung Sarok; they were always from Kampung Cunex. They were resettled in Sarok by the government.”
Colin said because the government’s promise to develop the community did not materialise, the villagers returned to Kampung Cunex on their own to protect the forest and their “sacred land”.
“They saw the logging that took place in the 1980s and they didn’t want that to happen to their land.”
This comes after David alleged that NGOs were responsible for masterminding the Orang Asli blockades against loggers at Kampung Cunex, adding that the villagers never brought up the issue of ancestral land until some NGOs encouraged them to fight for their customary land.
David had also claimed that the villagers of Kampung Cunex were actually from Kampung Sarok, but left in 2017 due to a religious misunderstanding, adding that they trespassed and settled in the Air Cepam forest reserve area.
He said the NGOs also came to Kampung Sarok to call on them to fight for their rights, but he declined as he did not want to stand in the way of the state government’s activities.
When contacted, Perak police chief Razarudin Husain told FMT they are not investigating the allegations.
Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil declined to confirm the village head’s claim as the Orang Asli dispute was still in the courts.
The Temiar tribesmen filed a court action against the Perak state government, Forestry Department and a logging company in June this year, claiming for ancestral land rights for the community.
“It is not proper for any party to discuss or make premature comments as this can be deemed to be sub judice,” said Shariffa.
She told FMT that instead of going on a witch-hunt for the supposed mastermind, the relevant parties should focus their efforts on defending and recognising the rights of the Orang Asli.
She added that all NGOs should support the native people in defending their ancestral land, as guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.
“If any NGO has any specific mission, they should go and lend their assistance. It is irrelevant to point fingers at this stage.
“Let us focus on the core issues facing the Orang Asli,” she said.