Sahabat Alam Malaysia has called on the police investigate the harassment on Orang Asli that allegedly took place at a human blockade against logging activities in Gua Musang district, Kelantan on Tuesday Sep 27.
President S.M. Mohamed Idris said SAM was concerned over media reports which related the manner in which the Orang Asli community had been treated after setting up their blockade against logging operations in their area.
He said SAM was worried over an allegation that forestry department officers and police had travelled together in private vehicles with the company representatives to the blockade site.
“This allegation must be thoroughly investigated by both authorities.
“The Orang Asli protestors must not be harrassed or threatened with arrest for protecting their customary land from encroachment.
“The people’s actions fall well within their constitutional rights, the freedom to assemble peacefully and the right to protect their property,” said Idris in a statement today.
Idris pointed out that the judiciary had already confirmed that the indigenous customary land right was indeed a proprietary interest in the land, protected under the Federal Constitution.
As such, he said it was no longer legally appropriate for logging licences to be issued without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of affected indigenous communities.
Hence, he called on state governments and the forestry department to review the manner in which logging licences were being approved by the existing system today, neglecting the centrality of the FPIC process.
Orang Asli in Gua Musang has set up a blockade against the logging operation going on in their residential area since Tuesday morning.
According to Kelantan Orang Asli Villages Network (JKOAK) secretary Mustafa Along, representatives from the logging company arrived at the blockade site with a group of men in several private vehicles around 2 pm on Sep 28.
The people however believed that the police, forestry officials and two media outlets were amongst the group.
The logging company then insisted for the blockade to be broken up.
Subsequently, Mustafa was momentarily detained in one of the vehicles by individuals whom the people believed to be policemen, while another two protestors were separated from their friends.
The blockade was eventually destroyed by the loggers, after which three lorries filled with logs, which had been parked as a result of the blockade, proceeded to drive through the remains of the barricade.
A hut built by the people near the road side was also reportedly destroyed by the loggers.
In the ensuing chaos, the people alleged two gunshots were later fired in the air by an individual whose identity was unclear to them.
The people were later warned with a threat of arrest should they rebuild the blockade.
They however have remained unfazed.
The blockade has reportedly been rebuilt.
“We want the police to remain impartial and swiftly probe the ugly incident at the blockade,” said Idris.