‘Indigenous people face a mountain of challenges’
Posted on August 9, 2012, Thursday
MIRI: Indigenous people in Malaysia make up only 12 per cent of the total 30 million population yet face a mountain of challenges in claiming their rights.
Indigenous People Network of Malaysia (JOAS) said in view of the rapid pace of development, the challenges imposed on indigenous people in the country would only get a lot harder to overcome.
“A celebration is usually a time to be merry but for most indigenous people there is a feeling of sadness enveloping them in view of many unresolved issues they are facing,” said JOAS in a media statement released here in conjunction with this year’s national-level International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.
It said it was ironic indigenous people were celebrating an important day today (Aug 9) that reminded them of their history of having to claim their place on the planet.
Among the problems were colonisations by dominant societies that resulted in indigenous peoples losing their land by force and facing extinction. Many were killed, forcefully relocated and their children taken away from them, as well as other forms of assimilation.
“In Malaysia, indigenous peoples face many challenges posed by the dominant system and society, one regarding issues of customary land ownership.
“From 2005 to 2010, the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) received nearly 2,000 cases on land disputes. Out of that figure, only six cases were resolved. The realisation led the commission to launch a national inquiry on indigenous people’s customary lands to get into the issue after which recommendations will be made and the report sent to parliament,” it said.
It added that Malaysia was one of many signatories of the UN General Assembly’s Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, a document in which all rights of indigenous people in the world were enshrined in 2007. Since then, gaps still exist with regard to the rights spelled out in the document and laws and policies of the country.
Other than the land issue, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is posing a challenge to communities particularly in Sabah and Sarawak, who still depend on forest resources for their livelihood.
Thus, this year, the celebration adopted the theme ‘Indigenous Media, Empowering Indigenous Voices’ in the hope of getting much wider access to the media which is currently limited by factors outside their control.
“Issues will continue to hit them from all corners as the nation develops. But they still have a reason to celebrate today. It is a day they celebrate their journey in trying to assert their place in society,” the statement said.