The Temiars in the Gua Musang District of Kelantan are frustrated and angry that their traditional lands are continually being destroyed by logging and plantation activities, says the Center for Orang Asli Concerns.
Despite assurances from the Kelantan Menteri Besar and several other local level government officials, the wanton destruction of their forest homelands continue unabated. The Temiars have met with the Menteri Besar twice, made numerous police reports, held a protest at the Gua Musang district office, set up blockades (twice), endured arrest and detention – all in vain and without any reduction in the damage to their territories.
On the contrary, the logging and plantation activities have increased in the past few weeks. Last week the loggers reached the vicinity of Gua Cha, an archaeological site of great importance to Temiar and Malaysian history.
They are particularly unhappy that their lands have been contracted out to private companies for 99 years under the state government’s Ladang Rakyat programme. The beneficiaries of such ladangs are not necessarily Orang Asli. Furthermore, the programme is based on the assumption that the lands the Temiar claim as their traditional territories are in fact state land.
Kelantan, under both BN and Pas governments, in fact has a bad track record for recognising Orang Asli lands. Only at the end of last year were a mere 245 hectares (606.6 acres) gazetted as an Orang Asli reserve. The Temiar are being told that almost 95 per cent of Kelantan is in fact Malay reserve land.
The Temiars want the authorities to have a moratorium on logging in their areas.
They also want all the promises made by the Menteri Besar and his officers in February and April last year to be kept and acted upon. This includes action to stop all work in all Ladang Rakyat project areas pending further discussion to resolve the issues, the setting up of an Orang Asli task force (with Orang Asli membership) to resolve all such issues, and to pay compensation for crops and property damaged by ladang rakyat activities conducted so far on their lands.
The Temiars have vowed to continue bringing their problems to the fore until they are resolved amicably.