Tuesday, 13 July 2010

JOAS statement at the EMRIP 3rd session - Agenda Item 3

Statement of Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalysia (JOAS)
[Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia]
To agenda item 3 Study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on behalf of Indigenous Peoples’ Network of Malaysia for your election as Chairperson of this session. We would like to also congratulate you and your fellow experts for compiling the draft report. We are very happy that our submission to the EMRIP has been incorporated in the document.

Mr. Chairman and distinguished delegates,

We, the Indigenous Peoples of Malaysia, have very distinct cultures and relations to our land, territories and resources. We strive to maintain these distinct values through our Adat and values that have been passed down to us from our ancestors for generations. We have lived and nurtured our traditional knowledge, innovations and practices since time immemorial, making us the true custodians of our land, territories and resources.

In Malaysia, we have very unique situation where customary law and its institutions in the state of Sabah and Sarawak are recognize by the federal and state constitutions. However, throughout the years we have seen the erosion of our customary institutions due to government appointments of our customary leaders, bypassing our traditional way of selecting our leaders. This has resulted in the weakening of our traditional leadership system which has undermined our effective participation in decision making. This is clearly a violation to our rights to self determination and self governance.

As a result of the weakening of our leadership system, development aggression has resulted in loss and misery of countless number of communities through logging, large scale plantations, mining, mega dams, protected areas and other infrastructures. These is a direct result in the lack of participation of the indigenous peoples in the decision making process. The government is been given inaccurate information about the real situation by the project proponents because the indigenous peoples is not involved in planning of such development. Local and international cooperation continues to disregard the need for Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before any development in our territories; they have no fear and pay little attention to our demand for dialogue as they see that they have full backing from the authorities.

With regards to the thematic study on the right to participate in decision making; we would like to stress that FPIC process is not a mere consultations process but a process to assert our rights to self determination. FPIC is not enough to protect our rights if the erosion and political intervention by the government that result in the weakening of our leadership which undermines our rights to participate in decision making process. The weakening of our traditional leadership has failed our communities since the government appointed leaders does not bring the aspirations of our communities. They had become mere eyes and mouth of the government in the system that is designed to be top down decision making process.

Our grave concern particularly on the Orang Asli community on the lack of representation in the government, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs continues to disregard the plight of Orang Asli on the land ownership matters. Despite memorandum after memorandum submitted to our government by our Orang Asli brothers and sisters to protest on the amendment to the Orang Asli Land Allocation Policy, the department continued with the amendment.

We have received numerous complaints from our Orang Asli brother and sisters that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs also continues to make decision on behalf of the Orang Asli without the full and effective participation. Dialogue are organized merely to get rubber stamping from the community even there were voices of protest, but these voices of protest is not taken into consideration.

But despite all these, we would like take note of the recent development. The formation of the Selangor Orang Asli Land Task Force which is to facilitate the process to indentify and demarcate the customary land of indigenous peoples in the state and an effort to solve age old issues. The action is done by the indigenous peoples themselves using participatory mapping with full participation of indigenous communities concerned. We hope that this good practice of using new tools and providing platform to the indigenous peoples’ community can also be replicated in other states all over Malaysia.

In conclusion, We wish to recommend the following;

1) EMRIP to study the impact of the state imposed committees to the traditional leadership and participation of Indigenous Peoples in decision making.

2) EMRIP to further improve the study on the participation of women and youths

3) EMRIP to include in the study the useful tools and platforms that can help in ensuring the rights to participate in decision making

4) EMRIP to recommend to the Human Rights Council to organize a global round table discussion on FPIC.

Kotohuadan, Terima Kasih ,

Thank you Mr. Chairman

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