Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu’s statement that Perak has no customary land (tanah adat) for any ethnic groups, including the Orang Asli, as the state constitution does not recognise the same is shocking and reflects his ignorance on such matters.
Ahmad Faizal was further quoted by Malaysiakini as saying,
“If there is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that says there is a need to fight for indigenous customary land then what if suddenly Mandaling Malays ask for the government to provide customary land for their people and the Javanese ask for the same thing.”
There can be no doubt that the Orang Asli have both common law and statutory proprietary rights in the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 which are protected by the Federal Constitution which mandates for proper compensation to be made to those with such rights who are evicted from their land.
Common law and established case law have recognised the customary title of the Orang Asli and that they may well have customary title of a permanent nature entitling them to adequate compensation in the event they are evicted from their land, eg. when the same is acquired by the government.
It has also been recognised that state governments have a fiduciary duty to gazette areas which are known to be occupied by the Orang Asli since time immemorial to protect their rights thereon and that a failure to do so can result in legal recourse against the said governments.
In light of the above, Ahmad Faizal was clearly wrong in saying what he said.
With respect, he ought to have sought advice from his State Legal Adviser before coming up with such a statement which has earned the ire of many, and rightly so.
Ahmad Faizal’s statement gives the impression that the Orang Asli in Perak have no proprietary rights and that the state government is not interested in protecting their welfare which is completely contrary to Pakatan’s manifesto before GE14.
Ahmad Faizal ought to be taking steps to improve the welfare of the Orang Asli instead as a MB. Not recognising customary land is certainly wrong and he ought to correct this misperception sooner rather than later.
Dated this 30th July, 2019.
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
CHAIRMAN NATIONAL LEGAL BUREAU
DEMOCRATIC ACTION PARTY