Salutations to the Bar Council Of Malaysia! Well Said!
KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — The Malaysian Bar has slammed former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s statement disputing the status of the Orang Asli, calling it “reckless” and “insensitive”.
Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said there was “ample” historical evidence that Orang Asli have continuously occupied peninsular Malaysia for thousand of years with their own form of self-government, customs, traditions and practices.
He said Dr Mahathir’s claim went against the position of the court, pointing out that the Court of Appeal had recognised the Orang Asli as the “First People” in the Sagong Tari case. “Dr Mahathir’s views are just plain and simply wrong,” Lim told reporters today.
He said both the Federal Court and the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 recognised the status of the Orang Asli and their customary rights over their ancestral land.
Lim added that the government had the duty to halt steps to amend or introduce legislation affecting Orang Asli ancestral lands until it obtains their “free, prior and informed consent” as Malaysia had voted in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“Malaysia is both morally and legally committed to recognising and protecting the status and proprietary rights of aboriginal peoples,” he said. Dr Mahathir said last Thursday that the Orang Asli did not have more right than Malays to claim Malaysia as they did not set up their own states or governments.
He wrote on his blog that giving Orang Asli greater rights to claim Malaysia as their own would be like handing back the United States, Australia and New Zealand to the Native American, Maori and Aborigine natives respectively.
Malaysia’s longest-serving prime minister pointed out that when European and Japanese colonisers came to Malaysia, they had dealt with and acknowledged the Malay governments. Although admitting his Indian roots, he argued that Arabs, Indians and Indonesians who adopted the Malay language, practised Malay culture and embraced Islam have become constitutional Malays through assimilation.
“It is important to note that the Malay rulers only recognised Malays as their natural ‘rakyat’. They also recognised ‘Orang Asli’ and non-Malays who had been assimilated as ‘rakyat’. However, non-Malays who continued to identify themselves with their countries of origin were not regarded as rakyat,” Dr Mahathir had said.
Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) coordinator Colin Nicholas said today it was untrue that there was no Orang Asli civilisation before the arrival of the Malays some 600 years ago, which he described as a “recent phenomenon”.
He said the Malay sultanates were born out of the support of Orang Asli communities, citing the backing the Orang Laut gave the Johor Sultanate.
He also pointed out that the first ‘sultanah’ of Perak was a White Seman and that it was not possible to become an Undang in Negeri Sembilan without Orang Asli blood through the mother’s line. “So the talk about Orang Asli having no civilisation before the Malays is not true,” Nicholas said.
“The reason why we have a Malay civilisation is because the Orang Asli supported it, and that’s how it started.” Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Villages Network (JKOASM) coordinator Tijah Yok Chopil added that Dr Mahathir’s antagonistic statement “twisted the facts” and appeared to be laying the ground for a land grab by “greedy parties”.
While she admitted that the Orang Asli had not been wiped out like natives in the US, Australia and New Zealand, she likened the government’s assimilation policies and loose enforcement of ancestral land rights to a “cruel murder”.
The Malaysian Bar also urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to “come out strongly” against Dr Mahathir’s statement and affirm that his administration was in favour of native rights.
“The government must, once and for all, put a stop to these ridiculous kinds of comments,” Bar Council human right committee chairman Andrew Khoo said. Yahoo News.