It took many years, but the plight of the Orang Asli have finally reached the ears of urban Malaysians.
However, it looks like the battle wages on as news of a blockade at Sg Papan/Kg Air Laba by the Temiar people which led to police detaining three of the Orang Asli spread on social media.
The Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) took to Facebook on Saturday (20th July) to share what was happening in the forest of Sg Papan/Kg Air Laba where the Temiar people faced off with loggers.
Their blockade was breached around 10 am with loggers and police on site.
Three villagers were then handcuffed and detained for attempting to stop the loggers and brought to Gerik.
Gerik police said that the three men; Jamal bin Endi, Mohd Nazerin bin Dahadu and Zaiman bin Long, were taken to the district police station for documentation purposes.
According to the COAC Facebook post, the villagers demanded that the loggers show their permits after they saw a couple of bulldozers attempting to ram through the blockade last Thursday. A verbal spat ensued and both parties threatened to make police reports.
The next day, police arrived and there was a standoff, but the State Director for JAKOA-Perak happened to make a planned visit on that day and intervened.
With JAKOA’s help, the Temiar representatives met an officer of the Perak Forestry Department who told them that such logging permits were “rahsia” (secret).
Unable to proceed any further, the villagers returned to the site of the blockade. The next day, the “arrests” happened.
The Star reports that Gerik police said that they received two reports from the logging company last week, unhappy about the blockades built by the Orang Asli at Kampung Sungai Papan and near the Air Chepam Forest Reserve.
“All three parties held a meeting but the Orang Asli insisted that the forest land there was their ancestral land and said that they would continue defending the blockade.”
“The workers again tried to demolish the blockade. About 25 orang asli also created a human blockade to stop the workers.”Superintendent Ismail Che Isa, Gerik OCPD via The Star.
The action of the police in handcuffing the Orang Asli was rebuked by P. Waytha Moorthy, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who said that Orang Asli customary land rights surpassed the right of state governments.
“Time and time again the highest court in Malaysia has recognised the Orang Asli customary land rights as superior and supersedes the right of the state governments under the Federal Constitution.P. Waytha Moorthy, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department via The Star.
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.”
Puan Seri Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil, Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) President was also highly disapproving.
The Star reported that she chided the state government for issuing permits to loggers and developers despite knowing that the Orang Asli will defend their ancestral lands.
According to COAC, the Sg Papan/Kg Air Laba blockade still stands, despite the almost daily attempts by loggers to dismantle it.
The latest update by COAC states that the loggers together with the police and forestry department visited the blockade yesterday and took pictures and measurements of the logs.