Aliran is appalled by the arrests of 13 Temiar protesters and a lawyer in Gua Musang yesterday over the local community’s attempted blockade to safeguard their community’s interests against the intrusion of loggers into their villages.
This stand-off came about in the wake of a long-standing dispute between the Temiar community and the Kelantan state government over the issue of their ancestral land, a portion of which has been ear-marked for an agricultural project dubbed the Ladang Rakyat programme.
This unpleasant incident is the latest in a number of skirmishes in the country between marginalised indigenous groups and those, including logging companies, trying to grab their land and deny them their cultural heritage. But what makes the Gua Musang confrontation different from most of the other conflicts is that it surprisingly happened in a Pakatan-ruled state where concerned Malaysians expect compassion to prevail above everything else and respect for the right to ancestral land to be honoured as a matter of right. This Gua Musang conflict is something that cannot – and should not – happen in a Pakatan-controlled state.
The Temiar community and other indigenous groups in the country have as much right as any other Malaysians to their livelihood, culture, lifestyle and land. And their rights must be respected by all. But, unfortunately, the Orang Asli, the weakest community in our society, are powerless, without any influence, and easily exploited by the greedy and the avaricious
We call upon the Kelantan state government to come to the negotiating table with representatives of the Temiar community. Justice and dignity must be accorded to this marginalised group, who deserve to be treated as human beings protected by the Federal Constitution, which promises equal treatment under the law.
Dr Mustafa K Anuar
29 January 2012