PUTRAJAYA, May 29 — The Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) is constantly in communication with the state governments to alleviate issues regarding the Orang Asli community and is also working with them to resolve the land encroachment issue, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waytha Moorthy said today.
He said in a statement that Jakoa acknowledged that many of the states are not fully cognisant or somewhat inconsistent with judicial judgments in the higher courts in relation to the fundamental rights entrenched in the Federal Constitution for the Orang Asli community in relation to customary lands.
In conjunction with the 1st National Orang Asli Convention held here last month, he said, Jakoa has outlined nine steps in addressing the customary lands issue that is being prepared to be tabled in the Cabinet among other resolutions pertaining to the Orang Asli.
Waytha Moorthy was referring to a recent statement by Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia chairman Tijah Yok Chopil that Orang Asli rights continue to be ignored despite the change of government.
Tijah said the community was taken aback by Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu’s statement recently on a dispute over the Orang Asli community’s demand for the state government to approve 12,456 hectares of customary lands.
Waytha Moorthy said Jakoa is aware that the issue relates to customary lands belonging to the Orang Asli occupied, used, improved and settled by them for generations.
“They inherited these lands from their ancestors and lived on the lands as their forefathers had lived but have been encroached without prior and informed consent in the past due to rapid deforestation and commercial development,” he said.
Waytha Moorthy said the federal government is also aware of its fiduciary obligation under Article 8(5)(c) of the Federal Constitution to enable the government to provide “for the protection, wellbeing or advancement of the aboriginal peoples of the Malay Peninsula” which includes the reservation of Orang Asli land.
He said the unprecedented suit filed early this year by the Attorney General’s Office at the High Court in Kota Baru, Kelantan, seeking the legal recognition of the Temiar Orang Asli land rights and an injunction to restrain private firms from encroaching on and destroying their land, was one of the proactive actions taken by the federal government. — Bernama