Malaysia: Reforms for Orang Asli Advancement

The new Pakatan Harapan government had set up a Council of Eminent Persons soon after coming into power. One of its main aim was to discuss national issues and put forth recommendations to the government.

To help it in its task, the Council of Eminent Persons set up the Institutional Reforms Committee (IRC), whose task was to advise the Council on the reforms needed for the government to achieve the promises made in its election manifesto.

Because all in our COAC team were on a 3-day village visit in Gua Musang, Kiah Hui and Elroi Yee accompanied Colin to the briefing with the IRC members.

The Center for Orang Asli Concerns submitted several of our previous research papers and publications to the IRC, in response to the committee’s call for submissions of such documents.

The briefing paper (shown in the foreground) is available for downloading.

At the invitation of the Institutional Reforms Committee, a briefing paper outlining the issues faced by the Orang Asli community and suggesting some of the reforms needed to address the situation was presented to the IRC at a meeting with the committee on 30 May 2018.

Among the issues addressed in the paper were the Orang Asli Policy, Land Rights Recognition, Securing Orang Asli Land, Territories & Resources, the Development Model, Headmanship & Leadership, Education, Health, Orang Asli Identity & Documentation, Orang Asli Children, Role of Orang Asli Women, and JAKOA.

The submitted paper can be downloaded at this link: The Orang Asli Situation And The Reforms Needed

Following the discussion, the IRC indicated that they were inclined to recommend to the Council of Eminent Persons that a special Task Force be instituted to look closely into the issues and provide actionable recommendations.

For our part, we have (later) suggested the Terms of Reference for this task force (which we have suggested that it be called ‘The Task Force on Orang Asli Advancement and Empowerment), to include the following:

  1. Gather comprehensive insight into the current situation of the Orang Asli. This is to be compartmentalized into four main categories:
  • Economic and land issues (including but not limited to the agricultural development model, the recognition of traditional lands and territories, and the implementation of the right to self-determination);
  • Health, Education and Infrastructure (including but not limited to the access to health and education, their delivery systems, the issue of high dropout rates and the non-enrolment of children of schooling age, and the access to basic infrastructure services);
  • General Rights and Entitlements (including but not limited to issues of non-documentation, issue of assimilation vs integration, position of women, promotion of Orang Asli languages and cultures, and the adoption of the principle of FPIC (Free, Prior and Informed Consent); and
  • JAKOA and Orang Asli Leadership (including but not limited to the perception and performance of the Department of Orang Asli ‘Development’, the need for the department, the appointment, role and tenure of Orang Asli village leaders, and the level of autonomy and self-determination accorded to the Orang Asli).

2. Study and evaluate laws, policies, practices and programmes that have been implemented to advance and empower the Orang Asli;

3. Consider, understand and incorporate Orang Asli perspectives into programmes aimed at their advancement and empowerment;

4. Study and evaluate international laws, policies, practices and programmes that have been implemented elsewhere to advance and empower indigenous peoples;

5. Evaluate the role and effectiveness of the relevant agencies and bodies tasked at improving, remedying or advancing the interests and needs of the Orang Asli;

6. Make recommendations on terms, conditions and structures upon which Orang Asli advancement and empowerment are to be realized.

We have also suggested that the members of the Task Force should be persons competent in one or more of the following areas of focus:

  • Orang Asli Culture, Traditions, History and Current Situation
  • Law (including native title under common law and native customary rights)
  • Education and schooling of Orang Asli
  • Healthcare and health delivery/access/monitoring
  • Government, law-making, administrative procedures, realpolitik
  • Orang Asli development models, policies and performance
  • Knowledge of international practices, programmes and policies for indigenous peoples.

Members of the Task Force should also be able to peruse submissions and research reports and derive content and conclusions from them. They should also contribute to the writing of the report.

We are hopeful that the Council of Eminent Persons will take the next step in recommending to the government that such a task force be established soon.

[Photos by Elroi Yee]

CN-COAC | 15 July 2018

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