KUALA LUMPUR: The Temiar orang asli of Gua Musang have applied to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) to conduct an enquiry into the Kelantan government over the encroachment of the contentious forest.
The Kelantan Network of Orang Asli Villages committee member Maya Bah Said said the move was aimed at stopping the encroachment into their customary land and the granting of temporary occupation licences and state leases to various companies, including loggers.
He said that the encroachments dating back to 2000 were now just metres away from their villages and polluting their water reserves.
The group also sought a moratorium on logging in the Balah forest reserve pending resolution of the enquiry.
Forty-two orang asli from Kampung Sendrod, Kampung Sigar, Kampung Kuala Tahu and Kampung Bahong attended the meeting as representatives of the 12 affected villages, which were home to some 2,000 Temiar.
Suhakam Commissioner Jerald Joseph said they needed to approach the state government for the moratorium as it was outside the Federal Government’s jurisdiction to issue such an order.
He revealed that the state government had responded to an earlier letter by Suhakam, in which it explained that the orang asli’s barricades amounted to intrusion into the forest reserve.
Joseph told reporters that the Kelantan Forestry Department’s tearing down the barricades on such grounds and even arresting protestors was a “strange” use of the National Forestry Enactment (NFE).
The Commission, Joseph said, would be meeting the Malaysian Bar next week to study three related laws, namely the NFE, the Kelantan Land Enactment and the Orang Asli Act.
On Tuesday, the department’s enforcement officers arrested two freelance journalists as well as 16 orang asli during an operation to dismantle barricades at Matau Cawas near Pos Bihai.
All were later released, though the journalists – working for Singapore-based Channel NewsAsia – are being investigated under Section 47(1) of the NFE for entering a forest reserve without a valid permit.
Ever since the blockades were erected by the orang asli in September last year to protest logging in the area, the site had seen several confrontations involving them, the department and the loggers operating there.