More must be done for Orang Asli

Press Release

The Bar Council is heartened by the Selangor State Government’s decision to withdraw its appeal to the Federal Court with respect to the Sagong Tasi case, which involves the 1995 acquisition of 38.477 acres of customary land in Bukit Tampoi, Dengkil that belongs to the Temuan Tribe.

We are concerned that although indigenous peoples are invaluable communities, their needs and rights have been long-neglected.  The majority of indigenous peoples are not able to fully enjoy their fundamental human rights because their traditions, customs and values are being eroded.  Tokenism and lip service to these communities must stop.  The manner in which our nation deals with the needs and rights of these communities is a reflection of our commitment to democracy and human rights.

We strongly urge the Federal and State Governments to take immediate action to fulfil their fiduciary responsibility to respect, promote and protect the welfare and rights of indigenous peoples pursuant to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007, and not to act in any way inconsistent with those rights.

We also call upon the Federal and State Governments, and the Department of Orang Asli Affairs, to formally recognise, protect and guarantee the right of indigenous peoples to their ancestral lands throughout the country and to gazette such ancestral lands as reserved areas for them, and if necessary to amend the land laws to achieve this.

At its recent 63rd Annual General Meeting on 15 March 2009, the Malaysian Bar unanimously adopted a resolution relating to the rights of indigenous peoples.  Pursuant to that resolution, the Bar Council supports any initiative by the indigenous communities to establish a joint committee to monitor and address issues of concern, and is committed to serving as a partner on such a committee.

We commend the Selangor State Government for setting up a Task Force for Orang Asli land issues, and we will seek to meet this body in the near future.  We hope that the Selangor Government will increase its efforts to protect the rights and interests of the indigenous communities in the entire state.

The Bar Council reiterates its readiness to assist the Federal and State Governments to ensure the success of such initiatives, which should form an integral part of each Government’s responsibility towards the people.

Ragunath Kesavan
Malaysian Bar

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