The Orang Asli quest for recognition continues

By  Ambiga Sreenevasan and Steven Thiru, Co-Chairpersons, Bar Council Committee on Orang Asli Rights

The Bar Council Committee on Orang Asli Rights (“COAR”) is organising a seminar on the land rights and other challenges currently faced by the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia.

The seminar will be held at Bar Council on 19 November 2011.

The aim of the seminar is to increase awareness of the critical issues that continue to threaten the Orang Asli’s customary way of life and their very existence as indigenous people of the land – and to provide an avenue by which lawyers can address this situation.

Time and again we read reports and public statements on the protection of the Orang Asli and their rights.

However, the reality is that their rights are, more often than not, trampled upon and ignored. There are many cases where the Orang Asli are forced to vacate their ancestral lands and give up their livelihood and heritage due to indiscriminate logging, and arbitrary and unwelcome “development”. The predicament of the Orang Asli is a matter of grave concern and must be brought to light.

Apart from the awareness aspect, lectures and training will also be conducted at the seminar to equip Members of the Bar to represent the Orang Asli in the many disputes and cases that are either pending or already in court.

To this end, there will be an open invitation at this seminar for Members of the Bar to come forward and volunteer their services to be part of the COAR’s pro bono legal team that handles these matters for the Orang Asli.

This is a clarion call for a worthy cause that is central to the calling of all lawyers who aspire to advocate the rights of the poor, downtrodden and marginalised members of our society.

Members of the Bar who want to know more about issues affecting the Orang Asli, and want to be involved in the pursuit of justice for them, should not miss the opportunity of attending this seminar.

Details of the seminar are as follows:

Date: 19 November 2011 (Saturday)
Time: 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Venue: Raja Aziz Addruse Auditorium
1st Floor, Bar Council
15 Leboh Pasar Besar
50050 Kuala Lumpur

The highlight of the seminar will be case presentations by lawyers, and Orang Asli representatives from different settlements, whose lands are being threatened or are encroached upon. They will share their experiences and the many struggles they have to overcome in espousing and protecting the fundamental rights of the Orang Asli.

COAR will invite the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to speak on the ongoing historical national inquiry on indigenous land rights. We will also invite experienced lawyers and academicians to conduct practical training on the basic elements, practice, procedure and evidence of native title law.

The constitutional fundamental right to life means more than mere existence. It includes the right to land, the right to dwelling and the right to livelihood. These rights must be protected for all peoples of our land, including the Orang Asli. So, we urge Members of the Bar to come join us in this endeavour to work with, defend and empower the Orang Asli to realise their just rights.

For more information on the seminar, please contact Christina Gomez, Officer, Bar Council, by telephone at 03-2050 2087 or by email at christina@malaysianbar.org.my.

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