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Posted: 20 Nov 2013 10:10 AM PST
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Posted: 20 Nov 2013 10:07 AM PST
What we see is a Federal government which admits in its 2014 budget that much work remains to be done to delineate the boundaries of Native Customary Rights land – in effect declaring we do not know who owns much of the land.
Today, I met a Penan. I met him outside the Headquarters of the Malaysian Police in Bukit Aman, Kuala Lumpur.
This Penan's 12 year old son and a teenager were arrested in Ulu Belaga a couple of weeks ago in Sarawak. The 2 boys had been detained by the police together with 8 adults because they, together with about 300 Penans, had blocked a road in a remote area in Sarawak, in Ulu Belaga.
The 300 Penan men, women and children are even now blocking the road with their small, sick, despairing bodies. They are doing this in order to achieve 3 goals: (1) delay construction of turbine-houses for the Murum dam until (2) prior agreements made with them are fulfilled and (3) they are reasonably compensated for all their troubles.
The facts of the case are hard to figure, and here lies the tragedy of Malaysia. Though the Peninsula and Sabah/Sarawak are separated by a huge expanse of the South China Sea. we claim to be one nation. Yet, we have very different cultures, and have very different laws and systems of administration.
Today, in the Peninsula, at least on the West Coast, we have vast swathes of plantations and we have numerous industrial centres.
In the Peninsula, we know how to determine who owns what land. We think of land titles ('geran') and Sale and Purchase Agreements. We think of searches in land offices. We think of lawyers' fees and we have clarity about when a transaction involving land is 'completed.'
In the Peninsula, we know that over the past several decades the timber in vast expanses of 'government owned' jungle has been harvested. We know the land has then been converted into plantations, not least by FELDA settlers. And, in some cases, jungles have made way for dams. (Happily, we have no plans to create new dams in the Peninsula.)
In the Peninsula, we know that there are expanses of land which have been gazetted as national forests. We know that such land must not be used for purposes other than preservation, education and enjoyment. We know that we have to be ever vigilant against greedy people who subvert such restrictions.
In the Peninsula, we have a hazy notion that the rights of the indigenous peoples have been settled: we believe they are allowed to hunt and gather in the jungles and to continue treating the jungles as their home for as long as they wish. Sadly, we don't know how many indigenous people there are, how we keep track of their numbers, how they can assert their rights, etc. We just 'trust and believe' they are being treated justly.
In the Peninsula, we think the issues of indigenous peoples are settled. We don't expect to see blockades or protests under the banner of Jakun, Negrito or Sakai or other indigenous peoples.
The indigenous peoples in the Peninsula were broken and repressed long before the age of cheap travel, tourism and internet.
Today, the world recognizes the ecological importance of jungles. Today, we have satellite images of the destruction of forests. Today, there is global interest in universal justice, etc. And today, we have tools and opportunities to act upon what we know.
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