Thursday, 23 September 2010

Human Rights Council considers indigenous issues

A statement by Malaysian representative at the UN Human Rights Council regarding the Penan rape issues.

JOHAN ARIFF ABDUL RAZAK (Malaysia) said that the delay in communications mentioned in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people was due to the fact that the Working Group had just been established and had been undertaking its own investigation on sexual violence against Penan women and children. Since achieving independence, most members of the Penan community had chosen settled life, while others who remained nomads were at great risk of human rights violations including sexual abuse. Additional measures to ensure the respect of the rights of the Penan, particularly their land rights, were included in the provisional Constitution. The Government remained committed to ensuring that the Penan were enjoying the same rights and other members of the society and regretted that the issue of the Penan was exploited at both national and international level.

Read the full news report on UN Human Rights Council website here.

Read the news on Malaysian government denying Penan rights here.

Malaysia Day Focus: Land, autonomy and empowerment for the Orang Asal

Written by Chua Sue-Ann
Wednesday, 15 September 2010 14:22

FOR Sabah indigenous rights activist Adrian Lasimbang, the key to his community’s well-being is the protection of their rights to the land. Lasimbang, who heads the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia or Jaringan Orang Asal Se-Malaysia (JOAS), explains that the Orang Asal’s consuming battle for rights to their land leaves little time to focus on the other issues that matter.

Adrian Lasimbang giving a speech during the world Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in Selangor this year

In an email interview with The Edge Financial Daily, Lasimbang describes the marginalisation East Malaysian indigenous peoples often feel, despite having entered into “an equal partnership” to form Malaysia 47 years ago.

Lasimbang, who grew up in a farming village in Penampang near Kota Kinabalu, says he was exposed to community activism at a very young age and felt the calling to help.

“We have a huge role to play to help the rural poor to enjoy development that meets their aspirations. My contribution is merely to assist them to have better options and make informed decisions,” he said.

TEFD: Do you think the East Malaysian indigenous people feel that they are part of Malaysia or is there still a palpable East/West Malaysia divide?

Lasimbang: Generally, the Orang Asal in East Malaysia still feel marginalised. Their needs and aspirations are not given due attention.

Development plans continue to be dominated by West Malaysian models which are not really applicable in East Malaysia. The federal civil service’s top ranks are still dominated by West Malaysians who may not necessarily understand the social dynamics of East Malaysia.

(Decisions are often) made based on race — the ‘Melayu, India, Cina’ thinking. We can now see that type of thinking seeping into our society here and it is not good for anyone.

The New Economic Policy does not mean anything to the Orang Asal as we feel that we are second-class bumiputeras.

In Sabah’s case, the new ‘citizens’ under the Project IC (who are classed as bumiputera) have more rights and opportunities than the Orang Asal living in the interior.

(Project IC refers to the alleged granting of citizenship to immigrants by issuing them identity cards.)

The economic gap between West and East Malaysia also makes us feel marginalised.

What can be done to bridge East and West Malaysia?

Ensure equal opportunity and the Borneonisation of the civil service. That way, we can feel that we are an important part of the administration of our beloved country.

Bring more downstream industries to East Malaysia to create more quality jobs for us, not just back-breaking labour work.

What needs to be done to bring more of the necessary socio-economic development to East Malaysia?

Sabah and Sarawak should get a better deal in the oil and gas agreements because 5% (of oil and gas revenue) is nothing considering the vastness of the land. We want some autonomy to decide what kind of projects are suitable for development in Sabah and Sarawak.

We’d also like autonomy in deciding how to help our poor. Most of the federal government’s programmes for eliminating poverty have failed and are open to abuse and corruption.

What needs to be in place for indigenous people to live their lives?

Land rights is the most important. Without land, the Orang Asal will not survive. Land is the lifeline. If you take that away, you will kill the Orang Asal.

If you secure their rights to land, there will be a sense of security and communities can focus on other issues like health, infrastructure and education.

The Orang Asal are fighting for their land, day in, day out. They have no time to think about other things. You really can see the difference in communities with secured land rights. They are more prosperous and advanced.

What is your hope for indigenous East Malaysians? What is your outlook for the younger / future generations of Malaysia?

We hope the gap between the West and East can be reduced. East Malaysians would then be more empowered to contribute to the country and decide their own fate.

I hope the younger generations will continue to preserve their rich cultural heritage. I just hope that racial politics will not destroy our country.

We should learn to respect our differences because that is what makes us Malaysians. We are united in diversity. (This is) not a place where one race dominates while the others follow!

In terms of your East Malaysian heritage, what are you most proud of?

I am proud of our cultural diversity. Sabah has 39 ethnic groups and Sarawak has 25 — that’s 64 ethnic groups living in one place. If these 64 groups can live in harmony, why can’t the three dominant groups in West Malaysia live happily together?

I am also proud of the history of Borneo which unfortunately remains untold in our history books in schools. I am proud of our land and environment that we live in. We have the highest mountains, the biggest caves, the oldest rainforest and the cleanest rivers.

What lessons do you think can be gleaned from Malaysia Day?

Unity is a precondition to a strong nation. Let us be reminded that the formation of Malaysia is based on equal partnership between Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak with high mutual respect envisioned by our founding fathers and mothers.

This article appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, September 15, 2010.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

eBario becomes Malaysia’s first community radio station

September 1, 2010


Issued by eBario Sdn Bhd


eBario Sdn Bhd, has been granted the Content Applications Service Provider (CASP) Class license by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). With the CASP Class license, the company will be the first company to deploy a community radio station in Malaysia. eBario Sdn Bhd is a social enterprise that was established to operate the remote and isolated eBario telecentre located in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak. A community radio is a small scale, low cost, not for profit radio broadcasting system designed to deliver content that has specific interest to the community it serves.

“The concept is relatively new in Malaysia. With the registration of this license, we hope to transform the community radio services in Malaysia, and we are also pleased that this would allow us to play a part in delivering our innovative approach to the use of Information and Communications Technologies for the social and economic development of the people living in the remote Bario area” said John Tarawe, CEO eBario Sdn Bhd.

To ensure compliance to the new guidelines on community radio service issued out by MCMC, eBario as the community radio service provider will encourage members of the community that it serves to participate in both the operations of the service as well as in the selection and the provisioning of its programmes. Coverage of a community radio station should be limited to the particular geographical area of the targeted community and the service should not be operated for profit or as part of a profit-making enterprise, as stipulated in the guidelines.

Community radio stations have blossomed in much of Africa and Latin America and they are springing up in neighbouring countries in Asia. Within their limited reach of 15-30 kilometres and the relatively low cost of setting up and ease of use, they are used by communities to broadcast information of local interest. Broadcasts are usually prepared by the residents themselves and are often conducted in local languages or dialects that national media do not cater to.

The Bario Radio community radio station is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), under its Indigenous Peoples Assistance Facility (IPAF). Mr. John Tarawe, CEO of eBario Sdn Bhd, a Kelabit resident of Bario and District Councilor, stated that “eBario’s proposal to set up the station was one of fourty successful submissions to the IPAF out of more than 800 from around the world. The station is intended to serve the people within the Forum of the Indigenous People of the Highlands of Borneo, which is known by its acronym FORMADAT (Forum Masyarakat Adat Dataran Tinggi).”

The eBario telecentre currently provides information services to the Bario community via shared public access to the internet. Having won multiple awards for its innovative approach to the use of Information and Communications Technologies for the social and economic development of the people living in the remote Bario area, the radio station is seen as a natural extension by delivering information right into the homes of the residents.

The station will be managed and operated by the community themselves; broadcasting much of its material in the local Kelabit language. With their internet connection, it is also planned to broadcast programmes on the internet to provide information services to the wider Kelabit diaspora living throughout Malaysia and beyond.

Members of the Bario community have been involved in every step of the proposal and they are enthusiastic about the prospect of operating their own radio station. They have expressed concern that their language is dying out as the younger Kelabit move away from the area. It is expected that the radio station will contribute towards a language revival.

The station will also broadcast local news collected by the residents themselves as well as stimulating debate on issues of local concern. It will provide a channel for public service announcements in the local Kelabit language, including the relaying of national news as well as providing information to promote better agriculture, encourage commercial enterprises, preserve the local culture, extend education and improve public health. The promoters of Bario Radio are optimistic that it will herald more such proposals for community radio stations to improve information flows to Malaysia’s isolated rural and indigenous communities.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

SUHAKAM to look into indigenous people's rights

Natalie Heng

KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 23, 2010): For the first time since its inception in 1999, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), will be conducting a national inquiry into the rights of indigenous people.

Internal preparations for the national inquiry are expected to take at least six months, said Suhakam commissioner Jannie Lasimbang today.

"Such inquiry involves lot of research in terms of preparing the background," said Lasimbang, who has been involved in advocacy for indigenous rights since the 80s.

Commissioner Lasimbang with Tokoh Orang Asal of landmark Land Cases in Malaysia during the World Indigenous Peoples' Day Celebration in Selangor.

Although the specific topics for the inquiry have yet to be identified, a broad spectrum of issues including land, education and economic activities will be looked at.

Lasimbang was speaking at a press conference after the Suhakam commissioners had their first official meeting with a number of human and consumer rights NGOs. The meeting was to discuss economic, social and cultural rights in Malaysia.

Commissioner James Nayagam, who was also present, said the inquiry was to gather hard data on the issues of concern.

"It will involve experts conducting research to provide a fair presentation of facts, not assumptions.

"A lot things are alleged to have happened," said Nayagam, referring to various complaints about land rights and abuses of women within the Penan community. "The inquiry will help us gather the data to confirm it."

Lasimbang said another important function of the inquiry was to create greater public awareness and raise issues that people may previously have not been aware of.

"Especially those in relation to violations which are not obvious to the public and which may not have been brought up before," she said.

Aside from indigenous rights issues, a variety of topics were discussed during the meeting.

A key recommendation was to put pressure on the Malaysian government to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, a multilateral treaty which commits parties to work towards the granting of economic, social and cultural rights to individuals.