By THE BORNEOTODAY TEAM
KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Forestry Department should stop their aggressive methods immediately and start working with the Orang Asal to preserve our remaining forests.
Strongly condemning the demolition of some 16 ‘Orang Asal’ houses in Kampung Bobotong, Tongod on March 17, by the Sabah Forestry, Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) said scores of the Dusun Kiulu community are now left homeless by the inhumane and brutal act.
“Sabah Forestry claims that the villagers have encroached into forest reserve land, but the Dusun Kiulu have been living in the area well before the area was gazetted as forest reserve land, said Juhaidi Marindal, the Sabah chapter Vice President of JOAS.
“They have planted fruit and oil palm trees in the area to earn a living,” he explained, saying SFD ought to engage with the villagers to find a peaceful solution before taking such drastic actions
It is reliably learnt that the Sabah Forestry has since halted the demolition process and has given the villagers until March 30, 2017 to move out from the area before they resume their operations.
There are some 200 houses in the village but so far only 16 were affected by the demolition.
According to JOAS Secretariat Director, Beverly Joeman, Malaysia is a signatory to the UNDRIP (United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) which requires states to consult and cooperate in good faith with indigenous peoples through their own representative institutions.
This is in order to obtain their free prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
JOAS president, Yusri Ahon, said he is alarmed by actions of Sabah Forestry Department both in Sabah and in Peninsular Malaysia.
“The atrocities in Sabah took place not too long after the Kelantan Forestry Department had demolished the blockade built by the Temiar Orang Asli to protect the forest from logging activities,” he pointed out.
“Rather than vilifying the ‘Orang Asal’, we hope that Sabah Forestry will engage with us meaningfully,” he added.
“The Orang Asal in Sabah, have successfully practiced conservation methods such as the Tagal system, which restores fish populations in rivers.”