Halt Orang Asli Harassment!

Photo Courtesy of JKOAK: Forestry Department destroying the Orang Asli Huts

Pusat KOMAS stands in solidarity with the Orang Asli community in Gua Musang, Kelantan and the two journalists who were arrested in the latest crackdown by the Kelantan Forestry Department, and their illegal attempt to dismantle the blockade erected by the Orang Asli community.

Pusat KOMAS would like to remind the Kelantan Forestry Department that the Court’s decision on 17th January 2017 in rejecting the logging company’s bid to log on the land owned by the Orang Asli clearly shows that the Orang Asli are the rightful owners of the land and the blockade erected is legal. Therefore, we strongly urge the Kelantan Forestry Department to respect the court’s decisions and recognize that the Orang Asli’s rights to occupy the land.

Pusat KOMAS also strongly condemns the arrest of the two journalists from Channel News Asia under Section 47 (1) of the archaic National Forestry Act 1984 (Amendment 1993) for entering the forest reserve without authorisation. Such actions to arrest the journalists covering the Kelantan logging issue is a serious violation of the democracy and freedom of the press. Only a government that wants to hide will try to suppress information by harassing the media. Is the Kelantan Forestry Department hiding something?

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Photo Courtesy of JKOAK: Chi Too, one of the journalist arrested

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Photo Courtesy of JKOAK: Jules Ong one of the journalist arrested

We urge the Kelantan Forestry Department to STOP the use of archaic laws such as the National Forestry Act 1984 to bully the legitimate Orang Asli claims to the land and the journalists who were there to document the incident. The Kelantan Forestry Department should also drop all charges against the journalists. It is also pertinent for the Kelantan State Government to diligently dialogue with the affected Orang Asli communities to understand the root cause of their plight and grievances and to identify effective solutions towards this urgent issue. The Kelantan State Government cannot continue to play ignorant and has to address this issue immediately!

It is time for the state government to take its duty to its people seriously and not abdicate its responsibility in respecting the rights of the indigenous people. An effective and good government will always find ways to enable and empower its citizens to live their lives in a most appropriate, productive, peaceful and meaningful way. The failure of the Kelantan State Government to even consider the lifestyle and the needs of the original indigenous people of Kelantan truly is a failure of the entrusted duty and it’s sacred obligation to its people. Pusat KOMAS calls on the government to desist abusing the laws to bully a small community who only seeks to live peacefully and harmoniously in their rightful land. The time is now, no more delays for the government to act and behave as a responsible and duty-bound government.