Press Statement: Stop the Harassments and Intimidation on the Defenseless Orang Asli!



Pusat KOMAS stands in solidarity with the Orang Asli community in Gua Musang, Kelantan and strongly deplores the harassments and intimidation made against the community.

The Orang Asli community in Gua Musang blockaded the entrance to their ancestral lands to stop the devastating logging activities in Kuala Betis, Gua Musang. They have also repeatedly and consistently tried to engage with the Kelantan State Government to discuss this urgent issue. But finally, they had resorted to the ultimate form of defense in erecting the blockade. They had hoped that this would be the possible step to find a long term and sustainable solution for all parties concerned. Unfortunately, that hope did not materialize and was not positively responded by the Kelantan State Government and their relevant agencies. Instead, the government had resorted to strong arm tactics to confront the Orang Aslis.

The Orang Asli community in Gua Musang was served a notice on 6th November 2016 by the Kelantan State Government to vacate the blockade by 20th November 2016. Despite the notice, the Orang Asli community remained adamant and maintained their blockade. In response, the Forestry Department, the Police and General Operations Force numbering about 100 officers (some were also armed) entered the blockade on the 29th November 2016. They arrested 41 Orang Asli activists and seized their cameras and handphones and completely demolished their blockade.

Pusat KOMAS strongly condemns the intimidation and harassment on the Orang Asli community and strongly demands the immediate release of the 41 Orang Asli activists. The high-handed actions of the officers in arresting the Orang Asli and tearing down their blockade is a clear act of sheer bullying by the enforcement officers and the Kelantan State Government. In fact, the verbal harassment and violence inflicted upon the community should be condemned.

Pusat KOMAS strongly urges the Kelantan State Government to address the root cause of the problem and not use the might of law on the defenseless Orang Asli community. In fact, the Orang Asli community in Gua Musang had made several attempts to dialogue with the Kelantan State Government to recognize the right of their ancestral lands but it was all in vain and had fallen on deaf ears. This tragic incident clearly reflects the failure of the Kelantan State Government to manage the pressing issue of the indigenous Orang Asli communities in Gua Musang.

The Kelantan State Government must be held accountable and to STOP all intimidation and harassment of the Orang Asli Community. The police must unconditionally and immediately release the 41 detained Orang Asli activists. 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 then to identify effective solutions to this urgent issue. The failure of the Kelantan State Government to do so would mean that they do not recognize the rights of the Orang Asli and their right to their ancestral lands.

Incidentally, this right is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 27 where, “No-one may stop you from participating in the cultural life of your community” and also the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.