The Kelantan State Government Actions on the Orang Asli Deplorable
The Center to Combat Corruption & Cronyism (C4 Center) is deeply alarmed and disturbed at the arrests of about 40 Orang Asli leaders in attempting to defend the blockades in their native customary lands of Simpang Petei near Pos Gob, Betau Cawas near Pos Bihai and Kelawong di Pos Pasik. All three blockades are in disputed areas in Gua Musang.
Despite these actions of erecting peaceful barricades, discussion, active negotiation and lobbying have superceded the efforts of the Orang Asli leaders in finding soultions. From meeting the Kelantan state leadership, various departments including the forestry officials, MACC Kelantan, MPs, we are gravely disappointed these have come to nought with yesterday’s strongarm tactics. Deputy Menteri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah had even promised the Orang Asli that he will personally head to the blockade to discuss this issue further with the Orang Asli Community. Regreatablly this meeting never took place.
C4 Center had worked with these communities closely and its recent efforts to bring officals to Gua Musang and hear the concerns of the Orang Asli saw various pledges to uphold good governance and protect the rights of these poor and marginalised people, and together find peaceful ways out of this impasse.
These lofty promises were broken yesterday, as at 11.00am, the Kelantan Forestry Department and the Police Department has sent their troops of approximately 100 officers with firearms to break down the three logging blockades.
It is no secret that forest revenue is the biggest contributor with a total of RM172.96mil, or 29.12% of the entire revenue, as reported by the Kelantan Menteri Besar himself. The state had endorsed in its last sitting new forest areas to be logged and estimated a revenue of RM539.8mil in its 2016 budget.
The Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department’s 2015 annual report shows that Kelantan has 3,331 workers in timber industries in the state. It recorded 887,666 cubic metres in log production that year, second only to Pahang.
So it is deeply troubling to know that the Kelantan State have chosen to be aggressive, to priotise profits before people and to rough up the Orang Asli this way – whose only “crime” is to protect their land and their homes in which they have lived for hundreds of years.
We condemn the arrests . Targetting them like as if they are brutal criminals is a black mark for the Kelantan State Government, who espouses Islam as its core principles in governance. Where did these values go when it comes to unbridled logging in the state?
This violent actions will benefit no one, certainly not the state administration nor its people….but perhaps the logging companies waiting to fell the trees. There must be better policy setting on forest governance, in which we have advocated stronly especially after the 2015 floods that almost washed away the entire state.
We insist that the Orang Asli are released immediately and dialogue and conversations that have preceded yesterdays unfortunate events resume to find amicable soultions and safety valves for the Orang Asli community.
C4 Center urges for the morotarium on logging around the Kuala Betis area to be upheld until the state government finds solutions to protect its forests and its people.