Sunday, August 1

Groups meet to submit resolutions on land rights

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MIRI: Twenty-six Sarawakians representing various establishments are among over 300 participants at the national land conference which began in Penampang, Sabah yesterday.

Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (Brimas) executive director Mark Bujang told The Borneo Post yesterday that besides him and other participants from Sarawak were Indigenous People Network of Malaysia (JAOS) president Thomas Jalong from Miri, and Sarawak Native Customary Rights Land Network (Tahabas) president Ramuold Siew

The over 300 participants registered to attend included academics, students, government officials as well as JOAS members from villages across Malaysia.

The two-day conference hosted by JAOS aimed to submit a resolution based on the recommendations of the Suhakam National Inquiry on the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Thomas in a statement emailed to the local media yesterday said: “Many don’t like to hear that indigenous peoples are one of the most marginalised groups in Malaysia. But this is a fact. And of late, the amendment in law and actions by the government further violates our rights.

“We hope this resolution will push forth the implementation of the recommendations in the Suhakam land inquiry, and thus allow for a more just system for indigenous people.”

Among the topics with themes around the 18 recommendations from the Suhakam report to be discussed are the establishment of an independent National Commission on indigenous people, recognition of indigenous customary rights to land, addressing land development imbalances, finding a remedy for lost land, preventing future land loss and addressing land administration issues.

“This conference is a good platform for villagers such as us to participate in the forming of policies that will drastically affect our lives,” said Arom Asir, 61, a Temiar Orang Asli elder who travelled all the way from remote Kelantan to attend the conference.

Leading up to this conference were heated protests by indigenous groups at dam development sites Murum and Baram in Sarawak where they reported police brutality and misleading information given to the affected communities who are now worse off than before.

With up to 10 countries making recommendations to the Malaysian government to improve its treatment of indigenous peoples at the recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva, the conference comes timely to see the government uphold its commitment to international human rights standards.