Protect Orang Asli rights and let them sell forest produce, activist tells govt

PETALING JAYA: Issues faced by the Orang Asli community must be addressed by the government to retain their support in the upcoming general election, says an activist.

Orang Asli Development Cooperative founder Ramesh Arumugam Chettiar (pic) said the government must review the National Forestry (Amendment) Bill 2022 that prohibits Orang Asli from harvesting reserved forest products for commercial purposes.

He urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob to form a committee to study the Bill, which he said would have an adverse effect on the vulnerable group.

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“Ismail Sabri is well-known to be close with the community, and cares for those in his parliamentary constituency of Bera in Pahang.

“So, please prepare a special committee and fine-tune this proposal. I hope this committee will be chaired by a minister who knows about the Orang Asli.

“Don’t take away their rights as indigenous people,” Ramesh said at Kampung Pos Tibang, Ulu Slim in Tanjung Malim, Perak on Sunday (Aug 14).

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“If this issue is not addressed, I’m afraid it (could) affect the results of the election soon,” he told reporters.

On Aug 8, in a reply to a question from Senator Apandi Mohamad in the Dewan Negara when tabling the Bill, Deputy Energy and Natural Resources Minister Datuk Ali Biju said Orang Asli living in the forest reserves can only harvest products for domestic use.

He added that there were 850 Orang Asli villages across the country, with a majority of them located in forest reserves.