By Faiz Zainudin
KUALA LUMPUR: A group of 50 Orang Asli from Gua Musang, Kelantan, today gathered outside the Forestry Department here to protest the tearing down of anti-logging blockades in the Balah forest reserve.
Lawyer and human rights activist Siti Kasim, along with representatives of 20 NGOs, including Pertubuhan Pribumi Perkasa and Suara Rakyat Malaysia, took part.
They marched about 1km from Wisma Tani to the department’s headquarters on Jalan Sultan Salahuddin here.
The group was denied entry into the Forestry Department building by security guards.
That did not stop the protesters from speaking out against alleged mistreatment of the Orang Asli in Kelantan.
Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan chairman Azmi Badun claimed the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department was in cahoots with the Kelantan Forestry Department (KFD) to demolish the blockades set up by the Orang Asli to prevent loggers from clearing the forest.
“We know that the actions of the Kelantan Forestry Department are supported by the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department.”
Last week, Kelantan Forestry officers demolished the blockades. They were also accused of setting fire to the huts erected near the blockade, which the KFD denies.
Meanwhile, Radar Jambu, a group representing Kampung Orang Asli Lojing, claimed the residents’ welfare and interests were ignored by political leaders.
“When it is election time, they encourage us to vote, but when it is over, they forget us. They treat us like slaves when they should be protecting our interests over the interests of the loggers.”
Angah Anjang, who represented the Orang Asli in Kuala Betis, said the community could have reacted in anger to the actions of the forestry officers.
“But we are patient because we respect the law.”
The protesters waited almost two hours at the gate before the Peninsular Malaysia Forestry Department’s policy and planning deputy director Nor Akhirrudin Mahmud agreed to accept a memorandum from them.
“I cannot comment without studying the memorandum. We promise to give a written reply later,” he said.
In the five-page memorandum, the group urged the Forestry Department to cease persecution of the Orang Asli and to put an immediate stop to all logging activities in Kelantan.