Tuesday 31 January 2012

Bar Council decries 'another blow' to native land rights

The Bar Council has described the desecration of Orang Asli burial sites near Johor Bharu as another blow to native customary rights to land.

NONE"The Malaysian Bar is concerned by the recent reports of desecration of two Orang Laut of Seletar burial sites in Kampung Bakar Batu and Kampung Sungai Tenom  ...,” said vice-president Christopher Leong in a statement today.

“This is yet another blow to the ancestral land rights of, and respect for, the Orang Asli.”

On Jan 18, villagers had claimed that two excavators had encroached into a shared burial site to carry out earthworks for part of the Iskandar Malaysia project, damaging at least 10 graves in the process.

"Through the years, the Orang Laut have consistently maintained that the areas they occupy and forage, both on land and sea, are customary ancestral areas.  The authorities have paid scant regard to their claims,” Leong noted.

"As such, these Orang Laut have lost much of their land and their livelihood has been seriously diminished... Many of (them) live in abject poverty amidst thriving development on their lands, from which they do not benefit.”

Leong called on the federal and state governments to immediately impose a moratorium on proposed development of land and other areas claimed by indigenous peoples, until the Human Rights Commission completes its National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples and produces its report in September.

"The incidents involving Kampung Bakar Batu and Kampung Sungai Temon are by no means isolated affairs. There appears to be a systemic pattern of rampant encroachment into Orang Asli-occupied areas throughout Malaysia," he added.

Orang Asli arrests condemned

Human rights group Suaram has condemned a separate incident in Gua Musang, Kelantan, where 13 Orang Asli from the Temiar tribe and a human rights lawyer were arrested after attempting to prevent loggers from entering their villages.

usm election conflict 060109 yap heng lung"Time and time again the police have become tools of big companies in oppressing people who stand in the way of the companies' profitable projects, and arresting people who are merely defending their homes," said Suaram coordinator Yap Heng Lung (left).

The Orang Asli, Yap said, cannot be forcibly removed from their customary lands without their consent, as stated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"We urge the Kelantan government to negotiate with the Temiar community and take immediate action to cease the logging activities in the area... The police must also stop being tools of multinational companies ...."

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