A group of Orang Asli from Johor has sent a memorandum to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) protesting encroachment into their customary land and sacred grave sites.
They claim that a contractor has been digging up trenches at a sacred Orang Asli grave site in Johor, according to a press statement released by the Kampung Orang Asli Ledang Action Committee.
The committee claimed that the contractor, working on the Taman Negara Johor project, has been carrying out construction on land that rightfully belongs to the Orang Asli, as defined under Section 134 of the Orang Asli Act, 1954, since Dec 27 last year.
Not only are their sacred sites being encroached upon, the Orang Asli in the area are also being prevented from harvesting produce in their own farms.
The Orang Asli claim that they have been prohibited from bringing agricultural tools, such as hoes and machetes, to their own farmlands.
Fences have been built around the areas of the forest they are not allowed into, preventing the Orang Asli from accessing the natural resources.
“Our freedom has also been suppressed. We have been restricted from entering the forest.
“Please don’t restrict us, the Orang Asli. If you restrict us (from the forests), where else will we go? There is nowhere else for us to go,” Kampung Tanah Gembur representative Tok Batin Jengkeng Jani said.
Police report lodged
Kampung Tanah Gembur is one of three villages represented by the Action Committee that are directly affected by the construction taking place in Ledang.
A police report was lodged on the day construction began and police came to investigate the site on Jan 3, but no further action was taken.
The Action Committee has also registered this case in court on Jan 8.
The Orang Asli state that their rights are not considered, their plantations have been ruined and their rightful land, including their sacred graves, have been tampered with.
“We are free people, and we have been living in these forests for generations.
“I want a better life than this for my children, nieces and nephews,” Kampung Sungai Air Tawas representative Tok Batin Mengek Ahcai said.
The committee wants those responsible to take down the fences and restore the land to how it was before the contractor moved in.
Suhakam has pledged to look into the matter, pending further details from the Orang Asli Action Committee.- Mkini