The Perak government has gazetted almost 14,000ha of land for 70 Orang Asli settlements in the state under the Aboriginal People’s Act 1954, Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu said today.
According to the New Straits Times, Azumu said these plots of land were mostly located in forest reserves area, comprising Orang Asli settlements, farming land and roaming areas.
"Since I took office, the state government has initiated the process to gazette an additional 5,176ha of land for another 27 Orang Asli settlements in Perak.
"This is the biggest area gazetted by any state in Peninsular Malaysia. We, however, don’t use the term ‘tanah adat’ (customary land)."
This was in reference to a controversial pronouncement Faizal made on July 29, when he said that "no land is recognised as customary land for indigenous or other people" in the Perak constitution.
He was widely criticised for the statement, with a Johor-based Orang Asli group even calling for his resignation.
"Several months after assuming the menteri besar post, I instructed state GLCs to adopt Orang Asli settlements and carry out programmes to improve education, skills training, economic activities and other initiatives to improve their livelihood.
"To date, at least 10 Orang Asli settlements in Perak have been adopted by GLCs, and the number is growing," he was quoted as saying.
Faizal claimed that the misunderstanding arose after certain NGOs outside Perak claimed that logging sites are located on Orang Asli ancestral land.
"I wish to make it clear that all logging permits issued are within the forest reserves in Perak, which do not involve any existing Orang Asli settlement.
"None of the land or areas currently occupied by Orang Asli settlement had been encroached to make way for logging activity.
"In short, there is no incident of Orang Asli community being chased or displaced to make way for logging," he said.
Disputing legitimacy of ancestral claims
Faizal alleged that the group of Temiar villagers from Kampung Cunex, who claimed that logging sites in Hulu Perak belonged to their ancestors, were in fact a splinter group from Kampung Orang Asli Sungai Sarok who live in the Dala Relocation Scheme.
He added that 26 families left the settlement in 2017 following a fallout with the village head.
"The group subsequently erected a blockade to prevent logging activity in Air Cepam Forest Reserve, which is not within their settlement area.
"They are demanding the government to recognise 12,465ha of land covering Hulu Perak, Kuala Kangsar and Sungai Siput districts as their 'ancestral land'," he was quoted as saying.
The menteri besar also disputed the claims of Temiar villagers in Kampung Sungai Papan, Gerik.
"They are claiming that a logging site, located some 25km away from their current settlement, as their ‘ancestral land’.
"The logging permits issued in Perak complied to the annual logging ratio set by the National Land Council, which was set to ensure an ample supply of wood for the timber industry in the state," he said.
"Allegations that I am siding with the logging companies at the expense of Orang Asli community are totally unfounded.
"The Perak Pakatan Harapan government is committed to improving the livelihood of the Orang Asli community in the state."
Faizal has since announced in a joint statement with de facto National Unity and Social Wellbeing Minister P Waythamoorthy that all logging activities in Perak have been frozen until the state government and Orang Asli communities can reach an amicable solution.