KUALA LUMPUR: The United Nations today heard of the ‘forced displacement” and “loss of livelihood” faced by the indigenous communities in Sabah and Sarawak as a result of the various development projects, including the construction of many hydroelectric dams report Free Malaysia Today News Portal
Tabling their report on issues at the 24th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Suaram executive director Nalini Elumalai said the situation in Sabah and Sarawak was particularly worrying.
“The indigenous peoples of Malaysia facing forced displacement and loss of livelihood due to large extractive industries.
‘We are particularly concerned by the situation on the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak”, she said.
Earlier in a separate written statement also tabled before the UN, she urged the Malaysian government “to end the violence and harassment against indigenous peoples defending their native customary land, and to ratify ILO Convention 169″.
Suaram, which was speaking on behalf of human rights defenders in Malaysia, also told the hearing that it recognised “the challenges facing the indigenous communities” even as Malaysia pursued its “development and modernity” agenda.
“Indigenous peoples should be afforded with the choice of joining mainstream society,” the statement said.
Malaysia is signatory to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), but has still not ratified ILO Convention 169.
The ILO Convention is a legally binding international instrument that deals specifically with the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.
Countries that have ratified the convention are subject to supervision of how the requirements are implemented.
Nalini while commending the Malaysian government for being a signatory to the convention, called on the authorities to enshrine the “the rights of indigenous peoples to free, prior and informed consent, as declared under UNDRIP”.
Allow special rapporteur in
Meanwhile Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission, Suhakam, in a video message told the UN hearing that the adoption of a human rights based approach to development are key elements in ensuring that indigenous peoples’ rights are protected.
Echoing Suaram’s stance, Suhakam said it “strongly believes the recognition of indigenous customary right to land” must also be protected.
Suaram also called for the Malaysian authorities to allow Special UN Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, James Anaya to conduct a mission to Malaysia as soon as possible.
Anaya had visited Kuala Lumpur earlier this year to meet with representatives of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), which included a contingent of Malaysian indigenous peoples.
He was here to conduct research for a thematic report on extractive industries.
Suaram, Aliran and other Malaysian NGOs are in Geneva to lobby the international community on Malaysian indigenous issues in the run up to Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October.
The UPR assesses the human rights records of all the UN’s 193 member states.
The UPR provides an opportunity for all member states to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries.
In real terms, the periodic review is designed to prompt, support and expand the promotion and protection of human rights on the ground.