Orang Asli situation still the same or ‘much worse’ under Pakatan, says activist

Activist Tijah Yok Chopil speaks during the launch of the Suaram Human Rights Report 2018 in Kuala Lumpur May 28, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Activist Tijah Yok Chopil speaks during the launch of the Suaram Human Rights Report 2018 in Kuala Lumpur May 28, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, May 28 — Orang Asli rights continue to be ignored despite the change of government, an Orang Asli activist said today.

Disappointed by the slow progress in reforming policies concerning the Orang Asli community, Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjug Malaysia chairman Tijah Yok Chopil said the community was taken aback by “rude” statements made by Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders, citing Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu as an example.

Ahmad Faizal had recently made several remarks on a dispute over the Orang Asli community’s demand for the state government to approve 12,456 hectares of customary land.

He had said appropriate action has to be taken against those who encroach on government land without provisions as this is not a cowboy country.

“We understand PH had just become the government, but as a small community that has been oppressed for a long time, we feel that the slow progress of the PH government in the period of either 100 days or 10 months reflects that there are not many changes made for the Orang Asli community.

“During Barisan Nasional (BN) time, our voices were twisted and Orang Asli land were used for development projects and were said it was for the good of the country.

“And now under PH government, the situation is the same or even much worse,” said Tijah at the launch of Suara Rakyat Malaysia’s (Suaram) Annual Human Rights Report 2018.

Tijah, who got teary-eyed while delivering her speech, said the Orang Asli community was upset over the status quo as they fought alongside PH politicians to see the change in government in the 2018 election.

Suaram director Kua Kia Soong speaks during the launch of the Suaram Human Rights Report 2018 in Kuala Lumpur May 28, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Suaram director Kua Kia Soong speaks during the launch of the Suaram Human Rights Report 2018 in Kuala Lumpur May 28, 2019. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

Earlier, Suaram adviser Kua Kia Soong in his speech revealed that there has not been much change on human rights reforms since the change of government from the long-ruling BN last May.

He said that the civil societies must continue to push for the reforms as the ruling government “has shown it is dragging its feet and reneging on election promises” due to “racial politics”.

“One year after the new PH government has come into office, we find that human rights in Malaysia continue to be perverted because of apparent lack of political will to significantly reform the old Malaysian institutionalised politics of racism and racial discrimination.

“The lesson is that, as always, civil society needs to be ever vigilant and persistent in pushing for these reforms.

“There have been engagements with civil society but no improvement in promised reform of repressive laws,” said Kua, citing the example of the short-lived moratorium imposed on draconian laws such as the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1988 last October.

The moratorium was lifted in December 2018 following the Seafield temple fracas.

He said laws which allow detention without trial violate basic human rights and should be abolished, which include the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (Poca), and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) 2015.

He added that the ruling government is now reconsidering its initial pledge to abolish several contentious laws, including the Sedition Act, Poca, Universities and University Colleges Act 1971, Printing Presses and Publications (PPPA) Act 1984, and the National Security Council (NSC) Act 2016.

“Such backtracking on the PH GE14 manifesto is totally unethical and perversion of human rights,” he said.

The Suaram report said there has been limited progress in reforming security laws, despite technical committees being convened and engagements held with civil societies.

It said reform on security law was hampered by unsubstantiated and often misleading claims made by the police or retired police officers.

The report stated that despite the change in government, the battle for human rights and democracy in Malaysia has only begun and that both the administration and civil societies must not shy away from the challenges that come with reforming the system of governance, human rights, and democracy.

Related Articles