COAC: Arrested Temiar men expected to be produced at court today

COAC: Arrested Temiar men expected to be produced at court today

The three Orang Asli of the Temiar tribe arrested in Gerik yesterday are expected to be taken to the Gerik Magistrate Court this morning.

Rights group The Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) said the men – from the Temiar community in Kampung Sungai Papan – may be charged for causing mischief by rendering public roads, bridge or river impassable or unsafe.

The offence carries a punishment of up to five years in jail or a fine, or both.

“Reports are varied as to what they will be charged for: Section 431 of the Penal Code (committing mischief by obstructing a public road) or Section 341 (wrongful restraint).

“But two of them will also be charged for not having their MyKad’s with them,” clamed COAC in a Facebook post.

It added that about 57 Temiars have been keeping vigil at the Gerik Police Station since the trio’s arrest.

The Temiar community have been battling loggers in Kampung Sungai Papan over allegations the latter are encroaching on their native customary land (NCR).

They community erected a blockade to keep the loggers at bay. However, the Perak state government insisted that they have the right to grant logging permits for the area.

The conflict resulted in the three Temiar people being arrested on Saturday. The police assisted the loggers to take down the blockade.

The trio were later released following the intervention by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waythamoorthy.

Despite Waythamoorthy calling for the police not to make any more arrests until the legal boundary of the Orang Asli’s land rights are determined, the police arrested three Temiar men yesterday.

The minister reminded the police and the Perak state government that the Federal Court had repeatedly recognised that the Orang Asli’s customary land rights supersede the rights of the state governments under the Federal Constitution.

“Until the legal boundary of Orang Asli’s land rights are determined, it is illegal for state authorities to unilaterally grant permits for developers to encroach and exploit the rights of these defenceless people without consent,” Waythamoorthy was reported saying.

On related matter, COAC denied claims by the Perak Forestry Department that the blockade was erected 25km away from Kampung Sungai Papan.

“They are wrong! The nearest settlement is Kampung Ong Jangking, which is 800m away in a straight line. Kampung Sungai Papan is 2.2km away. Not 25km,” said COAC.

Following a police report lodged by the logging company on July 17, it was said that discussions were held two days later between the logging licensee, the Sungai Papan indigenous community, state forestry department and the police.

Even so, the state forestry department claimed another police report was lodged by the logging company the same day to ensure the safety of its staff and equipment, in which the company sought police help to take down the blockade.

“Our department was not involved in destroying the blockade on July 20,” said the state forestry department.

The Department confirmed the logging company was licensed to cultivate 80 hectares of land within Air Chepam reserves.