Minister in the Prime Minister's Department P Waythamoorthy has asked the police to release three Orang Asli men who were arrested after clashing with loggers.
This is after the loggers, with police assistance, removed a blockade set up by the Temiar community at Kampung Sungai Papan, Perak.
"I urge the police to release the three Temiar Orang Asli reported to be arrested at Kampung Sungai Papan blockade site this morning.
"These are defenceless people who are only protecting their customary land by putting up blockades. They don’t deserve to be arrested in protecting their rights," he said in a statement today.
"I urge the police to be sympathetic to the plight of the Orang Asli and don’t be embroiled in this type of controversies which make it appear that they are siding with the loggers," he added.
Waythamoorthy, who is in charge of Orang Asli Affairs, said the Federal Court has recognised that Orang Asli customary land rights supersede the rights of the state governments.
"Various government agencies, including state menteri besars, Forestry Department and the police, do not wholly comprehend the provisions of the Constitution and the decided case laws which favour the rights of Orang Asli over the rights of the authorities.
"Until the legal boundary of Orang Asli’s land rights are determined, I am of the view it is illegal for state authorities to unilaterally grant permits for developers to encroach and exploit the rights of these defenceless people without prior informed consent," he said.
Waythamoorthy stressed that Putrajaya is committed to ensuring that the Orang Asli community are treated with dignity and their rights respected.
He also urged all state authorities, including menteri besars, to recognise Orang Asli customary land and protect their rights.