PETALING JAYA: Human rights activist Kua Kia Soong, criticising Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for referring to Malays as the indigenous people of Malaysia, said today only the Orang Asli are recognised by the Federal Constitution as indigenous.
Kua, an adviser to Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), said the constitution does not define Malays as indigenous to Malaysia, and it was “grossly erroneous and factually incorrect” to refer to Malays as the indigenous people of the peninsula.
“I didn’t know we had an Orang Asli prime minister!” he said in the title of his statement. “The prime minister should be more sanguine and careful in his reference to the peoples he governs in this country.”
Kua said the “special position” of the Orang Asli was not recognised despite being the rightful natives of the land, citing a United Nations’ definition of indigenous people.
“Today, they are the most marginalised and malnourished community in the country struggling to exist without the recognition of the native customary land rights they deserve.
“Indigenous peoples’ Native Customary Rights lands are constantly violated by the government and private companies through land-grabbing or illegal encroachment,” said Kua, citing the Bakun Dam and Sungai Selangor dam projects.
He added that these projects had displaced the community’s source of provision and ancestral burial grounds.
Mahathir yesterday made several references to Malays being indigenous, when commenting on criticisms of the Malay Dignity Congress held earlier this month. In one instance, he said: “It hurts me to think in their own country the indigenous people are not supposed to have their own gatherings without being accused of being racist.”