If Najib is serious about improving the welfare of Bumiputeras in Malaysia, he should implement the 18 recommendations given by SUHAKAM on Land Rights of the Indigenous Peoples including the setting up of a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 18th of September, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur

In his recent speech announcing the Bumiputera Agenda, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak referred to his 2010 UMNO General Assembly speech, where he said, perhaps half seriously, that the Jakuns and Sakai natives are Malays and have been absorbed as Malays.

If Najib is fully serious about addressing the plight of the marginalized Bumiputera communities in Sabah, Sarawak and in Peninsular Malaysia (which includes the orang Asli), then he should immediately set about to implement the 18 recommendations given in the recently released SUHAKAM “Report of the National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous People’s”.[1] This report documents many serious obstacles faced by the Orang Asal / Orang Asli in Malaysia in keeping and using the lands that they have traditional used as part of their lifestyles and traditions. This report draws attention to the need for the Malaysian government to adhere to the various international conventions which it has ratified and which have direct relevance to the Indigenous People’s including the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Instead of declaring a Bumiputera Agenda that is intended to shore up his own position within UMNO before the upcoming party elections which would have serious long term negative consequences on the economic and political landscape in Malaysia, Najib should instead focus his attention on the marginalized communities in Malaysia starting with the Indigenous Peoples, who are also Bumiputera, in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia. Among the 18 recommendations made in the SUHAKAM report which deserves particular attention are:

(i)                The establishment of a Native Title Court or Special Court to deal with the backlog of native land rights cases currently in the civil court

(ii)              Respecting the internationally recognized principle of ‘Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)’ in relation to indigenous people’s rights to their lands, territories and resources

(iii)             Conduct a comprehensive review of the Orang Asli Development Department / Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Aslia (JAKOA)

(iv)             Establishment of a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples which would ‘advise the Government on laws and policies related to Indigenous Peoples; propose and monitor sustainable development programmes on indigenous people’s land; promote participation of indigenous peoples at all levels, conduct research on issues related to the well-being of indigenous peoples’

Thus far, no Minister in the BN government, including the Prime Minister and the Minister in charge of JAKOA, has made reference to this very important SUHAKAM report and its recommendations. If Najib and his cabinet continues to ignore the findings and recommendations of this report, it will be proof that he and his government is not serious about addressing the true needs of the marginalized Bumiputera communities in this country but is more interested in reviving a failed Mahathirist crony-driven model of Bumiputera economic empowerment.