KUALA LUMPUR: Some 40 Orang Asli from the Temiar community in Gerik have handed over a memorandum addressed to Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to demand that their rights be better protected by the government.
The memorandum contained several demands, among them calls for the government to address issues pertaining to environmental pollution, improving the quality of education received by the community, recognising their traditional land and acknowledging the traditions of the community.
The group also wants the government implement all articles in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and to provide fair compensation to those who agreed to give up their respective customary lands.
Anjang Aluej, who represented the group, said he has high hopes for the Federal and state governments, as well as the various state departments to ensure that their rights to customary land were respected.
“Recognise and respect our beliefs and traditions. Stop forcing Orang Asli mothers to take birth control pills, stop the discrimination and prejudice against the community, which have caused us to lose confidence and the voice to defend our rights,” he said.
Anjang was speaking during a press conference held at Parliament’s temporary building Tuesday (July 9).
Earlier, the group met with Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Minister Yeo Bee Yin, Deputy Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji, and Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang.
The memorandum, addressed to Dr Mahathir, was received by Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) director-general Dr Juli Edo.
Anjang also claimed the community has been forced to convert to Islam by Jakoa. He gave an example by claiming Islam was registered as their religion in the MyKad “although we never converted”.
Zimah Omar, who was also present, lamented that their daily lives were disrupted by loggers.
“We prioritise protecting the forest in our traditional land because we don’t want the same incident that happened at Kuala Koh to happen to our community.”
Zimah was referring to the recent Kuala Koh, Gua Musang tragedy, which saw the deaths of 15 Bateq Orang Asli.
Three of the deaths have been confirmed to be from complications due to measles while the cause of deaths in the other 12 could not be ascertained due to the poor conditions of the bodies.