COMMENT We, the undersigned civil society organisations, strongly condemn the arrest and detention of 47 Orang Asli in the interior of Gua Musang, Kelantan on Nov 29, 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 two-day remand orders of the 47 Orang Asli granted by the Magistrate’s 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 urge their immediate and unconditional release.
The Orang Asli community in Gua Musang erected the blockades since Sept 26, 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 recognise the right of the Orang Asli community to their customary land in those areas.
It is totally disingenuous for Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob to try to wash his hands over the arrests of the Orang Asli on the justification that his government has left the matter 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 urge the Kelantan government to resume talk with the Orang Asli community, recognise their rights to customary land, degazette the logging areas and leave the Balah Forest Reserves, Perias Forest Reserve and Stong Selatan Forest Reserve intact.