Home Civil Society Voices Kelantan government has failed to protect Orang Asli rights

Kelantan government has failed to protect Orang Asli rights

Will they be able to share in the prosperity? - Photograph: Bernama pic/Malay Mail

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The Center to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4 Center) calls upon the Kelantan state government to immediately put a stop to logging activities in the Gua Musang area.

The Orang Asli are our treasure of civilization, reminding us of how our ancestors once lived and survived in the jungle. Today, their existence and way of life is under a serious threat, especially in Kelantan, due to the state government’s short cuts to revenues and lack of clarity on their legal status.

The Kelantan government has total disregard of the rights of the Orang Asli community living in the state forest and has for many years treated them poorly. Their rights are not respected, their land is robbed for profits, their culture and heritage are being destroyed. Despite them being the indigenous community of Malaysia, they are treated like aliens on their own land.

Here is our report on the Kelantan timber industry.

C4 Center has constantly expressed concern over the serious deforestation of the forests in Kelantan. In 2015, it held a fact-finding mission to investigate the massive floods that had hit the state that year causing hundreds of millions in damages and the lives of 21 people. The report released showed damning evidence that massive logging had indeed contributed to the devastating floods.

Among the recommendations in the report: improve the management of forests, map and gazette Orang Asli land, and go fully transparent on how concessions are awarded and which logging companies are given licenses to log. The public seems to be in the dark over how these concessions are being awarded, what the process of application is, how much the state earns from these concessions and what the selection criteria process is. This only gives rise to possible corruption and abuse of power.

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In 2016, we also met with various high level officers including Kelantan Deputy Chief Minister Mohd Amar Abdullah, the director of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption office in Kelantan, Moh Samsudin Yusof, and state forestry director Zahari Ibrahim.

Three years have passed, and it is heartbreaking to note that the Orang Asli community in Kelantan are still fighting to defend their land from encroachment.

The state government’s heavy reliance on revenue from concessions and logging is a big threat to sustainable development and the lives of the Orang Asli community and their forest. They seem to be lacking in ideas to gain revenue from other sources, and this is an example of poor governance in the state. This must urgently change if they hope to regain a mandate from the people of Kelantan in 2018.

The state should also open for public viewing the details or mapping of the areas which have been awarded to private companies. Strict enforcement should be taken against companies that encroach further into other land, and there should be a mechanism where the Orang Asli could object to related lands being awarded to private companies.

The Kelantan government should also ensure that all parties respect the court ruling which barred loggers from entering Pos Balar. Since that ruling, we are aware that the loggers are now instead destroying the land surrounding Pos Balar, such as in Kuala Wok. If the state actually has allowed the loggers to enter into these areas, then the state is complicit in circumventing the court order.

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C4 Center welcomes the call by Natural Resources and Environment Minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar for parties involved to come to the negotiating table and find a long-term solution to this problem. It is way time federal and state agencies look into the matter seriously. The discussion by all parties should be based on the rights of the Orang Asli to their land and for the preservation of their heritage and culture.

C4 Center will continue to monitor this issue closely and will provide whatever assistance needed to the Orang Asli community in defending their right and land. C4 Center fully supports the rights of the Orang Asli and the blockade. We will also be contributing four sets of generators to the Orang Asli community manning the current blockade and we will be visiting them in the coming days to lend our support.

C4 center also stresses that we are willing to work through a solution, with both the federal and state government. The Orang Asli community cannot be at the mercy of business interests of both the state and private entities.

Cynthia Gabriel and Sudhagaran Stanley
Executive director and northern region coordinator
21 February 2018

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