Sabah to host national Indigenous Peoples Day celebration

Kota Kinabalu: Indigenous groups in the country will be celebrating the annual International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples next week amid many issues of violations of their rights.

Sabah will play host to this year’s national level celebration at Dewan Solidariti Keuskupan Keningau, carrying the theme “A Decade of Indigenous Peoples’ Struggles.”

This year’s celebration marks the 10th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by the UN General Assembly. Malaysia is among 144 countries that voted in favour of the declaration.

As a signatory, the Government has the moral obligation to reinforce the rights and privileges of indigenous peoples as stated in the declaration.

But according to the event organiser, the Malaysian Indigenous Peoples Network (JOAS), indigenous communities in the country continue to see gaps between the contents of the declaration and government policies and their implementations.

The umbrella body made up of 87 indigenous grassroots organisations said in a statement that indigenous communities in the country still feel their rights as enshrined in the declaration are not being recognised.

It pointed out that encroachments into indigenous lands by private companies and government agencies in the three regions as among the major problems faced by communities.

It cited cases of land grabbing in the Orang Asli territories in Peninsular Malaysia by timber companies and the Federal Court ruling that the native custom of ‘pemakai menoa’ (territorial domain) and ‘pulau galau’ (communal forest reserve) had no force of law in Sarawak as among the recent developments which indigenous communities interpret as a violation of their rights.

It appealed to the Government to show more commitment in fulfilling their responsibility as a signatory of the declaration while at the same time asking to be given the chance to work together for the benefit of all indigenous peoples in the country.

Indigenous people make only 13 per cent of Malaysia’s total population of 31 million. – Leonard Alaza

Source: Daily Express