Marginalised groups to forward demands to PM

The inaugural human rights conference has called on the government to support its 14-point resolution.

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will get a first hand look at problems faced by marginalised and minority communities in the country when he is handed a 14-point resolution detailing their grievances.

The inaugural national human rights conference on the “Future of the Marginalised and Minority Communities” here, ended with a loose strategy to correct the imbalances felt by these groups.

Leaders from Sabah and Sarawak, the Orang Asli as well as Hindraf and representatives of the disabled registered their disappointment with the treatment meted out to them by the government.

Among the 14 points are that the government must fully adopt and implement pledges made to Sabah and Sarawak in 1963 including on the safeguards of sovereignty and security of the two states.

Also included is a call to establish fairer power sharing among natives in Sabah and Sarawak.

The other resolutions are:

1) Local councils must establish disabled committees to look into disabled persons’ needs;

2) Adoption of Hindraf’s 18-point memorandum that has already been submitted;

3)Ratification and full implementation of all international charters on natives;

  1. Recognition of the Orang Asli as the original inhabitants of Malaya, their right to the land as well as inclusion of their history in school textbooks;

4) Monthly aid of RM500 to deserving disabled persons.

Helen Ang of the Centre for Policy Initiatives who moderated the adoption of resolutions, told the conference that the resolutions would be tidied up as a joint memorandum and handed over to Najib next month.

Ancestral land taken away

Earlier an Orang Asli of the Jahut communtiy from Temerloh, Yusri Ahon, in presenting his paper “Orang Asli’s Land Problem and Their Future” outlined how the current government systematically reduced Orang Asli rights over large tracts of what they considered their customary lands.

“We used to roam our ancestral forests for food but now our people have been forced to accept two to six acres of land per household. We are not allowed to roam “tanah rayau” freely.

“The government also bans us from owning land beyond our existing land which has already been reduced as they normally just give three acres. Our ancestral lands have been taken, our burial grounds desecrated by loggers and developers linked to Umno,” he claimed.

A representative of a training centre for disabled persons, in his paper entitled “The Violations of the rights of the physically challenged in Malaysia” accused the authorities of half-hearted efforts to provide facilities for the disabled.

“We just want to live like others. We want to go to school, have jobs and not be used by politicians who give some of us token gifts during festivals like during Hari Raya.

“Many disabled actually commit suicide because they cannot live a decent life as they cannot afford their recurrent medical bills,” said Francis Siva.

Respect rights

Mark Bujang, executive director of Borneo Resources Institute, told the conference that besides being sidelined from development and political power, the indigenous people of Sarawak want the government to respect their rights to the land.

He said logging in Iban customary lands must stop along with the coerced conversion of the Dayaks to Islam.

Bujang also said the excessive force by police and use of gangsters by logging companies to intimidate the Dayaks who opposed logging on their lands was scandalous.

The one-day conference held at Kuala Lumpur Chinese Assembly Hall was co-organised by CigMa, Hindraf, Borneo Resources Institute, Sarawak Dayak National Union (SDNU), Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (Sadia) and the Human Rights Foundation, London.

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