A Kelantan DAP leader has equated the state government's treatment of the local Orang Asli community to the Zionist oppression of Palestinians.
State DAP coordinator Mohd Fauzi Mohd Azmi, who also heads the Kelantan Pakatan Harapan Orang Asli affairs committee, said this in regards to the state government's refusal to recognise and protect the community's land in Gua Musang.
"As 'city folk', I am ashamed to face my Orang Asli friends when the state government ignores a small request from the minority community that has fought to preserve peace in the country and defended it from the communists. This is akin to the Zionist regime's treatment of Palestinians," he said in a statement today.
The Temiar community in Gua Musang is in a protracted battle against loggers and plantations encroaching on what they claim to be their ancestral land.
However, the Kelantan state government insists the land belongs to the state, and that only foraging land – not ancestral land – is recognised by the state.
On Monday, the state government and enforcement agencies tore down barricades erected by the Temiar to hinder loggers and plantation workers.
Fauzi, however, says the state government would not incur significant financial losses if they recognised the Temiar ancestral land.
He also urged the state government to honour the sacrifices of the Temiar people, who as part of the Senoi Praaq special forces unit, had hunted down communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency.
"The Orang Asli have proven that the forests are safer while under their care, while we have proven that our arrogance leads to the destruction of forests.
"Honour their sacrifices for the state and country, give them their rights. They have given their lives (for this country) and we enjoy the benefits (of their sacrifice) until today," he said.
'Is Harapan sincere about minority rights?'
Meanwhile, in a separate statement, Lawyers for Liberty executive director Latheefa Koya took Putrajaya to task for the involvement of federal enforcement agencies in the demolition of Temiar barricades.
She said this calls into question the sincerity of the new Pakatan Harapan government in protecting the Orang Asli, and honouring its manifesto promise to advance the community's interests.
"The government must honour their manifesto in line with the nation’s collective hope for a ‘new Malaysia’ and end the marginalisation of the Orang Asli community.
"If the government fails to protect the Orang Asli in Gua Musang, then the ‘new Malaysia’ would not be much different from the ‘old Malaysia’ under BN, where short-term gains and profits take precedence over good governance, environment and human rights protection for the most vulnerable communities in the country."