We are calling on the Malaysian government to respect, fulfil, and promote Indigenous land rights; protect Indigenous peoples and land rights advocates against harassment and intimidation; and investigate past cases of attacks and threats against them.
Indigenous peoples of Malaysia comprise over 67 ethnic groups composing 14% of the country’ spopulation. They reside in every state and territory within the Federation and are afforded special recognition in the country’s constitution.
Despite this, they continue to suffer from disproportionate levels of poverty and ongoing social exclusion, in part due to an absense of formal recognition of their land, as well as a lack of consultation and free, prior, and informed consent on proposals to expropriate their land.
In their attempt to defend, protect, and promote the land rights of Indigenous peoples, these human rights defenders face harassment, intimidation, physical attacks, arrest, and even death.
Fuelling this is the impunity and quasi-absolute lack of accountability for violations and criminal acts committed against them. They are almost systematically denied justice and access to remedy when their rights are violated.
On 29 November 2018, Amnesty International published a report on the precarious situation of Indigenous peoples in Malaysia and supporters of their land rights. Titled “The Forest is Our Heartbeat”: The struggle to defend Indigenous land in Malaysia , the report details the human rights violations that Indigenous communities and their advocates face when asserting their land rights.
The Malaysian government has promised, in its manifesto for the May 2018 general elections, to take steps to address Indigenous peoples’ land rights. These include recognizing their customary land and protecting them in land development schemes. Since coming into power, however, not enough steps have been taken to meet these promises.
Stand with us and urge the Malaysian government to:
- Ensure that advocates for Indigenous land rights are free from harassment and discrimination, so they can safely conduct their important work.
- Promptly and fairly investigate attacks and threats against Indigenous peoples and their supporters, and penalise those responsible without using the death penalty.
- Refrain from using language that disparages or discriminates against land rights advocates, including characterizing them as “instigators”, “anti-development”, or “criminals”.
- Invite the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders to carry out a fact-finding mission and facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous peoples.
- Upon consulting Indigenous peoples, create a law requiring Indigenous peoples’ free, prior and informed consent when developing ancestral lands.
- Launch a national awareness campaign – developed with Indigenous – on the work of land rights advocates.
- Train public officials, especially those responsible for Indigenous peoples’ land rights, on the international framework on human rights defenders.
- Establish an Independent National Commission on Indigenous Peoples’ Land Rights that will identify and provide titles to native customary lands.