(The Star - Tuesday, 30 Jul 2019 )11:52 PM MYT)
PETALING JAYA: Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu’s recent statement on customary land rights of the Orang Asli in Perak is "shocking" and "wrong", says DAP national legal bureau chairman Ramkarpal Singh.

"The Perak Mentri Besar'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, " he said in a statement on Tuesday (July 30).

Ramkarpal noted there are common law and statutory proprietary rights under the Aborigines Peoples Act 1954, which requires compensation to be made to those such as the Orang Asli, 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 such as when the land is acquired by the government, " the Bukit Gelugor MP added.

Ramkarpal also noted that state governments are duty bound to gazette areas which are known to be occupied by the Orang Asli to protect their rights.

A failure to do so, he added, could result in legal suit against the state.

"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, " said Ramkarpal.

He said that Ahmad Faizal’s statement had given the impression that the Orang Asli in Perak have no proprietary rights and that the state government was not interested in protecting their welfare, contrary to Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto.

"Not recognising customary land is certainly wrong and he ought to correct this misperception sooner rather than later, " he added.

On Monday (July 29), Ahmad Faizal said that there is no such thing as Orang Asli “tanah adat” or ancestral land in the state.

The Perak Mentri Besar said the term was not recognised in the state constitution and it would be worrisome if all races started to make such claims.

“There are 2.5 million people in Perak and 60,000 of them are Orang Asli.

“What if the other races also want ‘tanah adat’? Do we divide up land for them?” he told a press conference at an event.

Ahmad Faizal was asked to comment on the standoff between loggers and Orang Asli who claimed to be defending their ancestral land in Kampung Sungai Papan.

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