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LETTER | Decade after inquiry: Towards respect for Orang Asli

LETTER | The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) in 2010 conducted its first-ever National Inquiry on the Land Rights of Orang Asal/Asli (NI) in Malaysia.

The NI process was completed in 2012 and the report on its findings was subsequently published in 2013.

The report which contains 18 recommendations was presented to the cabinet on July 19, 2013 and 17 recommendations were adopted by the government.

While Suhakam welcomes the establishment of the Special Cabinet Committee in 2015 to look into the NI recommendations, Suhakam is deeply concerned about the delay of the implementation which resulted in continuous violations of the rights of the Orang Asal/Asli, especially encroachment on their customary lands for logging, agriculture, and development.

Since its inception, Suhakam has been a staunch advocate for the rights of the Orang Asal/Asli communities. Our advocacy has always been directed at empowering them to fully exercise their rights.

Suhakam firmly believes these communities should enjoy the right to maintain and practice their distinctive culture, occupy and manage their ancestral lands, and determine their development patterns according to their needs and aspirations.

Above all, we continue to ensure their fundamental rights, as with all other citizenry, are upheld and defended.

Ten years have passed and yesterday (Nov 16), Suhakam organised a forum titled: ‘Sedekad Selepas Inkuiri Nasional Mengenai Hak Tanah Orang Asal/Asli’ (A decade after the national inquiry about the land rights of Orang Asal/Asli).

The forum, attended by 150 participants, aimed to assess the implementation progress of the recommendations, and to discuss Orang Asal/Asli rights violations and recommendations on ways to address pressing issues related to their fundamental rights.

Among the issues highlighted during the forum were:

i. Parliamentary and/or state-level discussion to deliberate the NI recommendations

ii. Government to re-examine the establishment of a National Commission or Customary Land Tribunal to address issues related to Orang Asal/Asli

iii. For court decisions to be codified to ensure legal guarantees

iv. Legal recognition and protection for Orang Asli/Asal to have proper land ownership, to enjoy their cultural practices, and self-determination

v. Suhakam to be involved in the discussions relating to amendments of acts or policies with regard to Orang Asal/Asli

vi. To transform the current cabinet-level committee into a council with significantly broader authority and capabilities

vii. To empower the community’s knowledge of their right to customary territories.

viii. To develop a complaint and resolution mechanism that is transparent and accountable to promptly address issues as they arise

Suhakam looks forward to the government addressing issues concerning Orang Asal/Asli and taking immediate action on the implementation of the NI recommendations.

Suhakam stands ready to work together with all relevant stakeholders, including the Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA), to drive initiatives that genuinely promote the well-being and progress of the Orang Asal/Asli communities.

Respecting their unique cultural and social identities, survival, dignity and well-being, Suhakam calls for the total involvement of Orang Asal/Asli in consultations and discussions on issues relating to them.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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