IPOH: The orang asli (aborigines) of Perak want the state government to recognise their rights to their ancestral land and are calling for an amendment to existing laws governing their jurisdiction.
Yayasan Orang Asli Perak chairman Suki Mee said this was one of the six resolutions passed unanimously by over 500 orang asli participants at a conference to discuss their land woes in Tapah last weekend.
Suki said they want the state to gazette, as orang asli reserve, the areas covering their villages, their agricultural plots and orchards, and their foraging grounds -- with immediate effect.
Another resolution called for an amendment to the Orang Asli Act or the National Land Code that would allow such land to be gazetted, and for the Tok Batin (orang asli village chief) to have a voice in its development.
“Legally, only the Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA) has the purview to decide what development projects take place in the reserve, but we want the Tok Batin to also have a say.
“Although the Tok Batin is usually appointed by the JHEOA director-general, the appointment is usually done with the recommendation of the village,” he said in an interview Monday.
Suki said a special committee to resolve the people’s longtime land issues would raise the matter when handing over the resolutions to the state in early August.
Perak executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon, he said, had pledged to meet them and the JHEOA to discuss their concerns.
Another resolution was to allow the orang asli to apply for individual titles within or outside a proposed gazetted orang asli area while waiting for its gazetting.
“I am confident that the state and Federal government will look into the resolutions. We are not asking for new land, we are only asking for the rights to the areas we are on now,” he said.
Suki said that the state government had in the past made some effort to grant land titles to the orang asli people through its orang asli land alienation policy in 1993.
“But as far as I know, not a single application has been approved under JHEOA since 1993 except for one area in Kampung Bawong in Sungai Siput, Perak.
“Other orang asli might have also been given titles, but this was through their own individual effort,” he said.
The remaining resolutions passed concerned other land and development related problems.
He said that according to 1998 JHEOA statistics, only 17% of some 29,766ha of orang asli land have been gazetted as reserves.
An estimated 42,000 orang asli live in Perak.
The illegitimate MB of Perak would probably ignore their request. The NGOs have noted that the Pakatan government previously was working hard in the direction of giving land deeds to them. Alas, they were taken illegitimately taken out and replaced by a government that is not bend to help the poor. The initiative for these orang asli have stalled and even the land titles given to the Chinese village seemed to be on a knifeedge. 1Malaysia indeed.