PETALING JAYA: Exactly two weeks after their confrontation with loggers, the orang asli who set up a blockade in Gua Musang, Kelantan, to halt logging are now themselves the “target” of a blockade.
Their lawyer Siti Kasim had planned to visit the villagers as their legal counsel but was barred from entering the Balah forest reserve yesterday by State Forestry Department enforcement officers.
She told The Star over the phone yesterday that about 10 officers had blocked the road near Pos Tohoi with their cars.
“They said I could not go in as I did not have permits or permission from their director.
“They are not allowing anyone to go in, including the usual traders who sold things to the orang asli and even NGOs that sent food to the blockade,” said Siti.
“The orang asli have been denied their legal counsel,” she added.
According to Siti, the Forestry Department had never done anything like this before and she wondered why they were doing it now. She posted a video of her encounter with the Forestry Department officers on her Facebook page last night.
Mustafa Along, secretary of the Kelantan Network of Orang Asli Villages, said it was possible that this new development was to apply pressure to the orang asli community to end their blockade.
Mustafa, who was one of the three orang asli activists temporarily detained at a confrontation at the blockade, said the orang asli would continue to persevere without the help of NGOs.
“What is clear is that we will continue with the blockade without the food aid from the NGOs.
“We will hold out without food (from outside). We have tapioca that we can eat,” he said.
The Forestry Department said they were well within their rights to prevent those without authorisation from entering the forest reserve.
Kelantan Forestry Department director Zahari Ibrahim referred to Section 47 of the National Forestry Act 1984 when asked about the blockade.
This section of the Act detailed that only Forestry Department officers, those with licences or permits from the Forestry Department and those with written permission from the Forestry Department’s director could enter a forest reserve.
Zahari confirmed that his department had carried out the blockade, but added that the orang asli were allowed to enter and leave.
“Yes, for the orang asli we are lenient. However, those from outside require the permission of the state forestry director or the district forestry officer,” he said.
Source: The STAR ONLINE