(a) Land rights of Indigenous Peoples
Since its establishment in 1999, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) has been dealing with numerous and persistent complaints from the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia as well as natives of the States of Sabah and Sarawak, collectively known as Indigenous Peoples or Orang Asal of Malaysia, pertaining to their rights, in particular, allegations of violations to indigenous customary rights to land.
SUHAKAM was of the view that this long standing and systematic issue affecting the Indigenous Peoples of the country could best be dealt with in a comprehensive and in-depth fashion with a view of having a better understanding of the issue and how best to resolve the issue in the interest of promoting and protecting the human rights of the indigenous communities in the country. In this regard, SUHAKAM conducted its first-ever National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Malaysia to examine the root causes of the land issue facing Indigenous Peoples from a human rights lens. The National Inquiry, which was conducted from December 2010 to June 2012, involved a series of public hearings in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.
The findings of this study were compiled into a comprehensive report entitled “Report of the National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Malaysia” (National Inquiry Report) which contains key issues and recommendations for the consideration and follow-up actions of the Government. Following the public release of the National Inquiry Report on 5 August 2013, YB Senator Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department announced the Cabinet’s decision to set up a National Task Force to study the report.
SUHAKAM welcomes the establishment of the Task Force by the Government to study its findings and recommendations of its NI Report. It hopes that the Task Force will complete its report and to ensure early and effectively implementation of the recommendations contained in the Commission’s NI Report.
SUHAKAM has in its follow-up plan to conduct briefing sessions in relation to the Task Force’s report with various stakeholders in the Peninsular, Sabah & Sarawak.
For more information on the National Inquiry, please refer to: http://www.suhakam.org.my/national-inquiry/
(b) Right to education for Orang Asli children
Although primary education is compulsory for all children, there has not been much improvement in attendance among Orang Asli children especially those living in the interior. In this regard, SUHAKAM has been conducting regular visits to schools and settlements of the indigenous communities to assess the status of education received by the Malaysian indigenous community.
SUHAKAM also holds meetings and discussions with the relevant stakeholders including indigenous community, the school authorities and relevant government agencies to discuss issues facing Orang Asli children’s access to education.
(c) Involvement at regional level
SUHAKAM also functions as the lead National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) for the Southeast Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum (SEANF) Joint Project on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and held a Regional Consultation on 14 March 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, which was co-organised with the Asia Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, the Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia and Partners of Community Organisations in Sabah. The session was attended by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and NHRI representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand as well as representatives of indigenous organisations, as well as NGOs in Southeast Asia.
The full report of the Regional Consultation can be downloaded here.
(d) Visit to Indigenous settlements affected by Dam projects
In response to the complaints lodged by the Penan and activitist groups, SUHAKAM has carried out site visits to the Penan settlements that are being affected by the Murum Dam project in Sarawak. It also held discussions with the relevant stakeholders including the Penan community and the relevant project developer.