From: Bar Council <email@example.com>
Date: 19 March 2010 15:09
Subject: [Malaysian Bar:2688] Press Release : Recognise and protect land rights of Orang Asli
Recognise and protect land rights of Orang Asli
The Malaysian Bar echoes the Orang Asli's demand that the Government formally recognise, protect and guarantee their rights to all their ancestral lands by gazetting the relevant land parcels as reserved areas without delay. We are disappointed that the Federal and State Governments continue to lack the political will to take this imperative first step to fulfil their fiduciary duty to promote and protect the welfare and rights of Orang Asli throughout Malaysia.
Far from amending the land laws to achieve this, the Government seems intent on using the legislative process retrogressively, to further deprive the indigenous communities of their rightful inheritance.
The Malaysian Bar is cognisant that there is no simple nor single solution to the formal recognition and protection of these ancestral lands, as the problems encountered vary according to place and community. We note, however, that various options are available, depending on the needs of the respective indigenous communities, inter alia:
(1) the issuance of individual land titles to every indigenous family;
(2) the gazetting of communal land parcels by the State Governments under Section 62 of the National Land Code 1965;
(3) the gazetting of communal land parcels under the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 with perpetual and unlimited foraging rights extending beyond the gazetted communal land parcels; and
(4) in exceptional cases of certain semi-nomadic indigenous communities, who are the most vulnerable of Orang Asli, perpetual and unlimited foraging rights (with concomitant and greater opportunities for education and vocational training towards sustaining their livelihood).
We are deeply concerned that many indigenous communities still live without basic amenities and infrastructure. It is within the context of the deprivation of their rights to ancestral lands and access to basic services that Orang Asli have become marginalised, and are thus increasingly vulnerable to violations of human rights.
The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Federal and State Governments to immediately halt any steps to amend or introduce any legislation affecting the Orang Asli's ancestral lands, until a process of consultation is conducted with the affected communities, and their free, prior and informed consent and cooperation are obtained. Without this preliminary measure, the Government's vote in favour of adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 that, inter alia, reiterates the right of Orang Asli to self-determination, rings hollow.
We strongly urge the Government to perform its duty by taking concrete steps to improve the welfare of Orang Asli. There are innumerable areas of concern, including the recently-highlighted allegations of mismanagement relating to an Orang Asli hospital in Gombak, which have yet to be adequately addressed.
19 March 2010