Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Police halt Putrajaya march by 2,000 Orang Asli

Police today stopped more than 2,000 Orang Asli from marching to the Prime Minister's Department in Putrajaya in a rare protest against what they deem to be the government's unfair land policy.

The protest, dubbed the biggest Orang Asli demonstration in history by Centre for Orang Asli Concerns coordinator Colin Nicholas, was stopped by a contingent of police officers 15 minutes after the march kicked off.

orang asli demo at putrajayaThe Orang Asli protesters arrived this afternoon at the country's administrative capital in 40 buses and gathered at the Putrajaya Mosque.

They had planned to march from the mosque to the PM's Department to hand over a memorandum, signed by 12,000 Orang Asli throughout Peninsular Malaysia, to Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

The group, comprising the young, old and even children, held banners declaring 'Tanah kami, maruah kami' (Our land, our dignity), among others. Some of them are dressed in their traditional attire, complete with headgear.

Re-routed by police

The police told the protesters not to display their banners and redirected half of the crowd to the nearby Ministry of Rural Development, about 500m away.

The Orang Asli were told not to march all the way to the Prime Minister's Department but were allowed to send five representatives to hand over the memorandum.

memorandum orang asli demo at putrajayaThe protestors eventually agreed to sending a five-member delegation to the PM's Department.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, at a press conference in the Parliament lobby, assured that reasonable demands by the Orang Asli would be taken into account.

Although he was not aware of the protest and the community's demands, Muhyiddin stressed that the government has always supported the Orang Asli and taken an interest in their welfare.

“If they are unhappy, they can submit their views on it and the department concerned will scrutinise it. If there is any proposition which is reasonable, we will do what is necessary,” he said.

Amendment to Land Act

The protest was organised by the Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli Association (POASM) and the Network of Orang Asli Villages Perak.

orang asli demo at putrajayaAccording to coordinator Jenita Engi, representatives of seven states decided to demonstrate after negotiations with the Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA) earlier this month came to a dead end.

Among the complaints were the fact that only six to eight acres of land will be allocated to each household.

"We demand that all the land explored by our ancestors should be handed over to us, and not just these six to eight acres," she told Malaysiakini yesterday.

orang asli demo at putrajayaThe Orang Asli community is also demanding that all restrictions be removed to allow them the right to sell their land.

They said the land policy is to be part of a proposed amendment to Act 134 of the National Land Act, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament by June.

This is the second street protest by the Orang Asli this year, with the first having taken place in front of the JHEOA hospital in Gombak, Selangor, on Feb 24.

[More to follow]

courtesy of Malaysiakini

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