Press Statement to Recognise Orang Asli Land Rights and to Preserve Forests

For immediate release

1 December 2016

Kelantan Government: Recognise Orang Asli’s Right to Customary Land and Keep the Forest

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, strongly condemn the arrest and detention of 47 Orang Asli in the interior of Gua Musang, Kelantan on 29 November 2016 during an operation to dismantle their blockades by some 100 personnel from the police, the General Operation Forces (GOF) and the Kelantan Forestry Department officers.

We are shocked and disappointed by the 2-day remand orders of the 47 Orang Asli granted by the magistrate court as they had not committed any crime, but merely exercising their right to peaceful assembly and the right to freedom of expression to protect their land and forest. We call for their immediate and unconditional release.

The Orang Asli community in Gua Musang erected the blockades since 26 September 2016 to protect their customary lands from logging activities. Although the Kelantan government had gazetted the areas for logging as a source of income for the state, the Orang Asli community has long disputed the decision for its failure to recognize the right of the Orang Asli community to their customary land in those areas.

It is totally disingenuous for the chief minister of Kelantan, Ahmad Yakob to try to wash its hands over the arrests of the Orang Asli on justification that his government has left the matters to the authorities. Clearly, without the notice and instruction from the Kelantan government, the police, the General Operation Forces (GOF) and the Kelantan Forestry Department officers would not have moved in to dismantle the blockades.

We call on the Kelantan government to resume talk with the Orang Asli community, recognize their rights to customary land, degazette the logging areas and leave the Balah Forest Reserves, Perias Forest Reserve and Stong Selatan Forest Reserve intact. Allowing logging in forest reserves is a mockery to the concept of forest reserve. Clearing the forest and depriving the Orang Asli of their land, which they depend on for their livelihood and cultural practices, is tantamount to cultural genocide.

While loggings may generate the necessary incomes for the state government, we are extremely concerned with the rate of deforestation in Kelantan due to excessive loggings, which eventually contributed to the massive floods in Kelantan in 2014-2015. In 2015, Kelantan recorded 887,666 cubic meters in log production in 2015, second only to the state of Pahang.

We call on the Kelantan government to adopt a more holistic and sustainable development plans for the state that will protect the environment and benefit the larger population in the state instead of the elite few and logging companies.

Endorsed by:

  1. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  2. Angkatan Warga Aman Malaysia (WargaAMAN)
  3. Baramkini
  4. Bersih Sibu
  5. Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia
  6. Community Action Network (CAN)
  7. Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM) Youth
  8. Damn The Dams
  9. ENGAGE
  10. Focus On Sarawak
  11. Friends of Kota Damansara
  12. Greenfriends Sabah
  13. Himpunan Hijau
  14. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
  15. Jaringan Rakyat Tertindas (JERIT)
  16. Kill The Bill (KTB)
  17. Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH)
  18. Kueng Cheng
  19. Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU)
  20. LLG Cultural Development Centre (LLG)
  21. Mama Bersih
  22. Malaysian Indians Progressive Association (MIPAS)
  23. Malaysian Indians Transformation Action Team (MITRA)
  24. Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility (MPSR)
  25. Malaysia Youth & Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
  26. Malaysian Youth Care Association (PRIHATIN)
  27. Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS)
  28. Muslim Professionals Forum (MPF)
  29. National Human Rights Society (HAKAM)
  30. Negeri Sembilan Chinese Assembly Hall (NSCAH)
  31. Northern Youth Group
  32. Oriental Hearts and Mind Study Institute (OHMSI)
  33. Partners in Community Organising (Pacos Trust)
  34. Pahang Raub Ban Cyanide in Gold Mining Committee
  35. People’s Green Coalition
  36. People Welfare And Rights Organisation (POWER)
  37. Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara (ALIRAN)
  38. Persatuan Alumni PBTUSM Bahagian Utara
  39. Persatuan Komuniti Prihatin Selangor, KL dan Perak
  40. Persatuan Masyarakat Sel dan Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)
  41. Persatuan Rapat Malaysia (RAPAT)
  42. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor
  43. Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM)
  44. Pertubuhan Pembangunan Kebajikan Dan Persekitaran Positif Malaysia (SEED)
  45. Pertubuhan Rakyat Mukakas Kipouva Sabah
  46. Projek Dialog (PD)
  47. Pusat Komas (KOMAS)
  48. Research for Social Advancement (REFSA)
  49. Saccess
  50. Sahabat Rakyat
  51. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  52. Selangor and KL Hokkien Association Youth Section
  53. Sembang-sembang Forum
  54. Seniman Paksi Rakyat (PAKSI)
  55. Seremban Chinese Methodist Church
  56. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  57. Student Progressive Front UPM (GMMUPM)
  58. Suaram Malaysia (SUARAM)
  59. Sunflower Paper
  60. Sunflower Electoral Education Movement (SEED)
  61. Tamil Foundation (TF)
  62. Tenaganita
  63. Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy
  64. Tindak Malaysia (TM)
  65. University of Malaya Association of New Youth (UMANY)
  66. Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO)
  67. Writer Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI)