PETALING JAYA: The Orang Asli in the peninsula have legal right over their ancestral land, retired judge Gopal Sri Ram said.
“They would have acquired the customary title to the land by merely cultivating, hunting, collecting jungle products and living there,” he said.
Sri Ram said they need not produce a title to their land unlike property owners.
“Occupying the land for generations is a strong and almost irrefutable presumption that they hold the title,” he added.
The retired Federal Court judge said this in response to reports that Orang Asli activists had been arrested for erecting blockades at forest reserves in Gua Musang, Kelantan.
A showdown between 200 Temiar Orang Asli and Kelantan state authorities had taken place since Sept 26 to prevent timber from being taken out of the Balah Forest Reserve.
Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob had told the protesters to stop the blockade or risk facing legal action.
Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah had said while he sympathised with the natives, they should not take the law into their own hands.
Sri Ram, who decided on the land rights of Orang Asli in at least two landmark cases in the Court of Appeal, said federal laws were also in their favour.
He said these were the Federal Constitution, National Land Code, Land Acquisition Act and the Aboriginal Peoples Act.
Sri Ram said the authorities could acquire their land but they must be adequately compensated.
“If you don’t, this is a violation of denying them the right to their property.”
He said from reports, the incident in Gua Musang showed that the authorities’ action was illegal as they were trying to ignore the customary title of the tribe without monetary compensation.
He said the loggers were also liable for trespass.
“The affected Orang Asli have legal remedy as case laws support them.” FMT