Call on Cabinet to take a policy decision to correct a historic injustice in Malaysia by giving land titles to the 100,000 orang asli in peninsular Malaysia

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Monday): DAP calls on the Cabinet to take a policy decision to correct a historic injustice in Malaysia by giving land titles to the 100,000 orang asli in Peninsular Malaysia.

The injustices, neglect and deprivation of the rights of the orang asli communities over the years have again been highlighted by the Consumers Association of Penang National Conference on "Land: Emerging Issues and Challenges" held during the weekend.

Although the Department of Orang Asli Affairs was established as far back as 43 years ago in 1954, the Department is a complete failure as it had not been able to implement proper measures to benefit the community.

It is most shocking the government has not amended the Aboriginal Peoples Act, 1954 where the orang asli do not have any ownership right to their land as the Act states that they can only live on land reserved for them as tenants at will, and not own it.

The magnitude of the historic injustice done to the orang asli communities could be seen from the unbelievable data that only 0.2 per cent of the orang asli have land titles.

As a result, almost all of the 100,000 orang asli in 77 villages in the peninsula have no security of tenure, making them ineligible for certain government aid and open to dispossession and encroachment attempts.

It was also highlighted at the weekend conference that only 22% of orang asli inhabited lands have been gazetted as reserves and certain state authorities have even degazetted reserved land since 1990.

The Cabinet should give urgent attention to the historic injustices suffered by the orang asli and it should announce a new policy to redress these imbalances and inequalities so that orang asli can look to the new millennium with hope and promise.

The Cabinet should also pay serious attention to the charge that the orang asli have been restricted from practising the religion of their choice and to build places of worship on their land.

The Cabinet should conduct a wide-ranging review as to how the orang asli communites can be fully integrated into the mainstream of development, starting with a study as to why the Orang Asli Affairs Department had been such a failure for over two generations.

If the Orang Asli Affairs Department had been a success, like MARA for instance, then it should have been possible to ensure that the post of director-general of the Orang Asli Affairs Department would be held by an Orang Asli.

DAP would expect the government to give a better account of its efforts to uplift the livelihood of orang asli communities in the next meeting of Parliament in March next year, and it is hoped that by then, the government would have introduced a bill to give land titles to the orang asli communities.


*Lim Kit Siang - Malaysian Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Democratic Action Party Secretary-General & Member of Parliament for Tanjong