Eli talks about the Orang Asli, not photographs

By Neville Spykerman

SHAH ALAM, April 22- Elizabeth Wong avoided the simmering controversy over the circulation of semi-nude photographs of her and chose to focus on work during her first post executive council press conference today.

Reporters who sought her comments after the press conference about the pictures were instead told to read her statement which had been issued to the press last week.

The Bukit Lanjan assemblyman had previously offered to resign from all posts but accepted an offer by the state to return to work after two months of leave.

She added her lawyers would be speaking to police over new pictures of her sleeping fully clothed which had appeared in a blog.

Earlier the state heath, environment and tourism councillor jointly announced the launch of the Orang Asli Task Force on May 4, to resolve disputes with the indigenous community amicably, with the Selangor mentri besar.

“We do not want to take an adversarial approach and go to court each time there is a land dispute with the Orang Asli but settle administratively. ” said the former environmentalist.

Wong said the new task force which includes experts and members of the community will resolve disputes over land rights and development for the 14,000 strong indigenous community from the Temuan and Mahmeri tribes.

“The Orang Asli cannot get everything they want but the task force has been given three months to settle outstanding disputes.”

Meanwhile Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim today also announced Selangor was withdrawing the state’s appeal to the Federal Court in the Sagong Tasi case which involves compensation to the Temuan tribes whose land was acquired for development, in 1995.

The respondents in the case are Orang Asli Sagong Tasi and six others and involves their customary rights over a 15.32ha plot in Kampung Bukit Tampoi, Dengkil which was acquired for a highway.

In 2005 the Court of Appeal had upheld a decision of the Shah Alam High Court which declared Sagong Tasi and six others as customary owners of the land and declared their constitutional rights had been violated.

The court gave an order for them to be paid market value as prescribed under the Land Acquisition Act 1960 and also ordered United Engineers (M) Bhd and the Malaysian Highway Authority to pay damages to the Orang Asli for trespassing on the land.

Both parties and the Selangor government had appealed against the decision which had been pending in the Federal court.

Khalid said the state legal advisor will inform the Federal Court on it’s decision to withdraw from the case tomorrow.

He said the state intends to address all the problems of the Orang Asli who have been marginalized from mainstream development.

“We believe the rights of the Orang Asli should be protected and will continue to treat the community with the respect they deserve and which should have been accorded to them from the very beginning.”

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