NECF Malaysia "For Your Intercession" No. 16 – June 9, 2004 www.necf.org.my.
Land-The Plight of Orang Asal (OA)
Early this year in Feb. 11th, Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) vice-chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun said that 2.6 million indigenous people (includes those who live in Sabah & Sarawak) felt their rights were ignored while the rest of the country progresses (New Straits Times). Among them, the Orang Asal or Orang Asli (OA) in Peninsular Malaysia, are, controversially, the least developed community.
In the Peninsula, when an area is declared as protected, the land rights of OA are first to be affected. The people become part of the project of eco-tourism or ecological protection and may be told where to stay. When their land is displaced by development projects, they are, either given monetary compensation which generally does not sufficiently make up for the loss, or are given another piece of land of which they obtain no written permanent tenure. Land is a pressing issue for OA because it is their primary source of life and is crucial for continuity of the community.
Without a land to be called their own, what is the right of OA in building places of worship? The Federal Constitution Article 11 gives every person, i.e. including the OA, the right to profess and practice his religion (clause 1) and every religious group, i.e. including a group of OA of the same faith, to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes (clause 3). However, the inconsistencies in definitions and interpretation of land rights between OA and the State have created considerable conflicts especially in building places of worship. None of the provisions on OA ancestral rights over land (The Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954, revised in 1974) are included on National Land Code Act 56/65.
A newly built OA church in Kg Pasu, Kuala Krau of Termerloh was demolished by the local authorities on September 30th 2003 on the grounds that it was built on a government land and therefore illegal under the Section 425(1) of National Land Code Act.
Subsequently on October 1, the Raub Land Official issued a notice to the OA in Sg Ruai, Mukim Batu Talam of Raub, that the church was built without permission from the authority and therefore against the law under Section 425(1). A similar notice was recently received by the OA in Kg Ganoh, Mukim Keratong of Rompin on May 11 2004. The OA were urged to destroy their respective church buildings in order to prevent from being fined (max. RM10,000) and imprisoned (max. 1 year) according to the Act.
Whether or not the above issues are resolved, an extent of injustice has been done on the OA in Peninsula Malaysia. Their rights as lawful Malaysian citizens, especially to land entitlement and religious freedom, have been violated again and again. The Federal Government of Malaysia led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi has assured religious freedom for all Malaysian citizens and that no group is neglected and left behind (Barisan Manifesto).
Suggested prayer points:
Isaiah “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow”
Zechariah 7:9-10a "Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor”
1. Pray for authorities to resolve the plight of OA and recognize their rights to land and religious freedom.
2. Government to consider amending the National Land Code in terms of land entitlement for the OA.
3. Churches to be bold and courageous in voicing the dilemma of our fellow OA.
4. OA themselves will stand up for their rights with boldness and wisdom.