PETALING JAYA: THE Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia (JOAS) will do all it can to defend Orang Asli homes which are being threatened by widespread logging.
JOAS president Yusri Ahon said the Kelantan Loggers’ Association had made a statement that they were prepared to face opposition from the Orang Asli, which had the community worried if it entailed violence.
He accused the Kelantan government of neglecting their interests.
After several pleas, Orang Asli communities in Kelantan have yet to receive an answer from the state government guaranteeing their rights and safety.
Pos Balar representative Kamal Alek said they would refrain from using violence as much as they could, but if push came to shove, they would be ready to fight back and even risk being jailed.
“This is about dignity, our homes. We know the government has power over the lands, but we only ask for courtesy and humanity,” he said.
On Nov 6, the Kelantan Forestry Department had issued a 14-day notice to the Orang Asli, stating that they have until Nov 20 to dismantle their blockades at Pos Balar in Gua Musang.
Under Section 32 of the National Forestry Act (1993), those found guilty of occupation of a permanent forest reserve or carry out activities upon it without a permit can be jailed for a maximum five years’ and fined RM5,000, or both.
JOAS, however, claimed no representatives were present when the notice was issued.
JOAS deputy president Zurdi Baharu regretted that Kelantan Deputy Menteri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah not only ignored their plight, but claimed that the Orang Asli had been instigated by outsiders.
“This is a dishonest statement from someone who wants to wash his hands of responsibility,” he said, adding that the blockades were the initiative of the Orang Asli communities to protect the forests and their livelihoods.
He urged the Pas-led state government to discuss with the communities before taking any drastic action.
The Kelantan government has left it to the state Forestry Department to take action against the Orang Asli community at the Balar forest reserve in Gua Musang, who tried to stop timber workers from entering or leaving the area.
Amar said the state government had not given any instruction to the department to resolve the impasse, but the department was acting on powers under the law.
“I have been informed that the department has given a notice to dismantle the barriers. The state government, however, is still committed to solving the problem amicably.
“I will go to the area with the relevant departments to discuss with Orang Asli representatives soon.”
Some 400 members of the Orang Asli community there had set up the blockade since September as they were dissatisfied with the state government for allowing logging in the forest reserve.
They claimed that logging had not only polluted the river, but also caused massive destruction.
Amar said no formal meeting had been held with the Orang Asli since the protest, although representatives from the group handed him a memorandum during a discussion with non-governmental organisation Sahabat Alam Malaysia at his office recently.
“We are serious in finding a solution that is acceptable to all.
The state government has shown its seriousness by stopping all logging in the area after the dispute started.”
– NST Online