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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We are also 1 Malaysia, says Orang Asli leader

By Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

PUTRAJAYA, March 17 — More than 1,000 people gathered today near the Prime Minister’s office to protest against the proposed amendment to Act 134 of the National Land Act.

More than 1000 protesters from the The protest, organised by the Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Association (POASM) and the Network of Orang Asli Villages, handed over a memorandum to the PM in Putrajaya today. - Picture by Jack Ooi
The protestors claim the proposed amendment will only allow six to eight acres of land to be allocated to each Orang Asli (indigenous people) household.
The protest, organised by the Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Association (POASM) and the Network of Orang Asli Villages, handed over a memorandum, signed by 12,000 Orang Asli throughout Peninsular Malaysia, to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
The protestors, some wearing indigenous outfits, carried banners saying ‘Our rights must be protected,’ ‘Don’t abolish our Act’, and ‘Don’t take away our rights, we are willing to be bathed in blood.’
Police forcing the protestors to put down their banners. - Picture by Jack Ooi
Police stopped the protestors as they began marching towards the front entrance of the prime minister’s office. They thens there were many tourists around.
“Put down the banners! You are breaking the law!” the policeofficers ordered.
“You do not have to talk to us like that! We are also humans. We know the law. Can’t you ask nicely?” one of the protestors shot back.
They finally agreed to the demands by the police and waited patiently under the hot sun for the prime minister’s officers to receive the memorandum.
Half an hour later, Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal appeared and received the memorandum.
The Rural and Regional Development Minister explained that the amendment to Section 134 was in the deliberation process and the government was still open to discussion.
“Currently we are doing a road-show explaining to the public at large — particularly the indigenous people — about the amendments. And the feedback coming from them is crucial to help us accommodate them. There are no closed doors.
“The amendment is not finalised, it is still with the Attorney-General. That is why we are going to table it... possibly in June,” he told reporters here.
Shafie also denied that the government plans to only allow six acres of land for each household
“We need to explain to them that actually the indigenous people are entitled to not only the land gazetted but also land for which they can apply.  There are no restrictions granted to the indigenous people on top of what they are entitled to,” he said.
Later at a press conference, Pijah Yok Chopil said the government must protect the rights of the indigenous people if they truly believe in 1 Malaysia.
“When Najib became the prime minister, the first thing he did was come up with his concept of 1 Malaysia. Our understanding of 1 Malaysia is that every Malaysian has their uniqueness, making Malaysia into a colourful society. So let us live our own way of life, culture, beliefs but we can be united so do not take away our human rights. Make 1 Malaysia a reality,” said the founder of  Network of Orang Asli Villages.


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