The Kelantan government has distanced itself from Tuesday's arrest of Orang Asli activists in Gua Musang involved in blockading their land against loggers.
According to The Star yesterday, Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob said he left it to the police and the Forestry Department to deal with the blockade.
The Temiar of Gua Musang, who set up the blockade, said the logging destroyed their native lands on which they rely for their survival.
"The government had left the matter of the Orang Asli who had built the barricades along logging roads to stop logs from coming out from the areas to the authorities to handle.
"The arrests of the Orang Asli should be left to the wisdom of the authorities and no party should get involved until the investigation is completed," Ahmad is reported as saying.
The Kelantan government is adamant that the Orang Asli community dismantle their blockade or face the consequences, the daily reported.
Ahmad said the blockade was illegal and the community was hampering development, The Star added.
Blockade justified as 'last resort'
Former Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah today urged the Kelantan state authorities to resolve their dispute with the Orang Asli through negotiation.
Urging an end to the violence in Gua Musang, Sha’ani said Kelantan has failed to resolve the legitimate concerns of the Temiar and their peaceful blockade in response was therefore justified.
“The last resort of a peaceful blockade is a justifiable recourse, and its legality can only be determined by the court.
“State authorities and the Forestry Department have failed to resolve the legitimate concerns of the Orang Asli fairly.
"By right, state authorities should bring the matter to the negotiating table, without any conditions and/or court adjudication.
“State authorities should not have any interest in the management and administration of the state, except for the public's interest, moreover in interest of the downtrodden such as the Orang Asli,” he said in an open letter to Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yaakob.
Sha’ani was a Suhakam commissioner for the 2010-2013 term.
'No action on Suhakam report'
He also noted that in 2013 when Ahmad was Kelantan deputy menteri besar, a Suhakam delegation had gone to present the findings of the commission’s National Inquiry on Native Customary Land of the Orang Asli.
Yet, to date, there is no land in the state designated as an Orang Asli reserve in accordance with the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954.
A total of 47 Orang Asli activists have been remanded for investigations into their anti-logging blockade in the interiors of Gua Musang, Kelantan.
It was reported that 17 of them were slapped with three-day remand orders yesterday, while the others were remanded for two days.
The group, aged 18 to 40, were arrested after police and the Forestry Department destroyed their blockades at Pos Petei and Pos Bihai on Tuesday afternoon.
The blockades were set up since September, to stop logging activities in the Balah, Perias and Gunong Stong Selatan permanent forest reserves, which the natives complained were contaminating their water sources.
Last night PAS central committee member Zuhdi Marzuki told some 30 activists gathered outside the party's headquarters in Jalan Raja Laut in protest against the arrests of the Orang Asli, that the state government is ready to discuss the matter with the Orang Asli.