The Malaysian Bar has dismissed Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu’s assertion that the dismantling of a blockade put up by the Orang Asli community in Kampung Tasik Cunex in Gerik was lawful.
In fact, Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor said Ahmad Faizal appeared to have been “misinformed” that the land in question had yet to be sanctioned by the Perak government and the Attorney-General’s Chambers as native customary land.
“Regrettably, Ahmad Faizal justified the demolition of the blockade, contending that both the blockade and logging were carried out on state land and that the loggers’ activities were in compliance with the law.
“Based on this reported statement (that the state government has yet to recognise the area as Orang Asli native customary land), the menteri besar’s legal justification appears to be misinformed and is arguably misleading.
"This as the Malaysian superior courts have recognised the common law rights of Orang Asli to lands that they have historically and traditionally occupied, inhabited or used for generations without the need for a formal executive order recognising these rights,” Fareed said in a statement today.
He cited several precedents including Johor Government vs Adong Bin Kuwau (1998), Johor Government vs Sagong Bin Tasi (2005) and the Orang Asli Welfare Department (now Orang Asli Development Department) director-general vs Mohamad bin Nohing (2015).
As such, he said the statement by Ahmad Faizal raised concerns the Pakatan Harapan-run state government had failed to take into account if the affected indigenous community had acquired customary land rights via common law.
“[...] it is troubling that the Perak state government continues to not consider the full spectrum of Orang Asli customary land rights as pronounced by the Malaysian courts and, perhaps more alarmingly, takes action that runs counter to the protection of remaining lands potentially subject to Orang Asli customary land rights,” said Fareed.
As such, he said the Bar Council called on the state government to suspend all logging activities in areas that potentially overlap with lands claimed to be Kampung Tasik Cunex Orang Asli customary lands and investigate the claim jointly with the community.
It was reported last week that the state government dismantled the anti-logging blockade set up in Kampung Tasik Cunex after which authorities allegedly put up a signboard claiming that the land was government land and that trespassers would be prosecuted.
The blockade was set up earlier this year by the Orang Asli to put a stop to logging activities purportedly being carried out without the community’s knowledge or approval.
The Perak Forestry Department had claimed logging activities there did not encroach onto Orang Asli customary land and that any trees felled there were in accordance with state-sanctioned "selective logging" procedures.
This was supported by Ahmad Faizal who also asserted that jobs would be lost if logging was stopped. He further claimed certain NGOs were manipulating the Orang Asli to disrupt state government’s operations.