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14 theSun | FRIDAY JUNE 26 2009

speak up!

Ignore land rights at your peril
by Sonia Randhawa conflict recently has Yet it’s the governments that have issued an apology for the protesters less powerful groups are not exploited
been in the Amazon, encouraged oil exploration, logging who have died. There are news reports and to attempt to ensure development
OWNERSHIP of land where around 30 people and other forms of “development” that the prime minister will resign. But occurs with social justice. We have a
is a funny thing. For died in clashes earlier that have shortened life expectan- the conflict could easily have been few good examples of how it should
generations, in Malaysia this month between po- cies and reduced available land for avoided, according to information from be done here – the Department of
and across most of the lice and Indians. The indigenous people. The 13-year-old human rights groups. The government Wildlife and National Parks engaged
globe, it was considered police claim that they struggle for justice in the Ogoni delta has justified the legislative decrees on in extensive consultation with affected
as nonsensical as own- suffered a high number of Nigeria has moved further forward the grounds that they were necessary communities when gazetting the Pen-
ership of the air. Land of deaths (despite su- with Shell’s “humanitarian” gesture to abide by the US-Peru Trade Promo- ang National Park.
was a trust, a public perior firepower) while of a US$15.5 million (RM55 million) tion Agreement (TPA). However, the Yet, in the meantime, we find that
resource. If you had the the Indians claim the settlement. The award was made to agreement itself calls for changes to one of the first acts once the Barisan
energy (or the slaves)
you might be able to
Freespace police are covering-up.
The clashes were over
the families of leaders, most famously
Ken Saro-Wiwa, executed by a military
be made in a consultative and trans-
parent fashion. The protesters also
Nasional took over in Perak was de-
gazetting forest reserve, that as soon
farm more than your Where young views rule legislative decrees that government in Nigeria. say the decree violates Peru’s com- as the power shift happened the indig-
neighbours. But as your the Indians were con- Back in Peru, the award of a 10.5- mitments under the ILO Convention enous people started complaining of
good-for-nothing sons who had been cerned would make it easier for the million ha concession to ConocoPhil- 169 which concerns indigenous and encroachment by logging companies.
raised by your sweat and blood came government to alienate their land for lips, a large US energy company, had tribal peoples. And the situation is similar in other
into their inheritance, the lands you’d oil and gas exploration. come under criticism for its potential These, ILO Convention 169, the states. Malaysia needs to cast a wary
painstakingly opened up might revert The Peruvian government has impact on indigenous people just UN Declaration on the Rights of eye on what is happening in Nigeria, in
to jungle and common ownership. blamed the clashes on people instigat- weeks before the crisis made inter- Indigenous Peoples and even parts Peru and in other parts of the world,
And then there was the global ing the indigenous population, people national headlines. Two weeks before of the Rio Declaration of 1992, are where laws legalising the alienation
scourge of colonialism. Land that had with some hidden agenda. We’ve that, the government had negotiated attempts at undoing the colonial herit- of indigenous lands have been found
been managed, not always as sustain- heard similar arguments from govern- a concession with a large Canadian age, re-establishing the sovereignty to be violations of pre-existing rights,
ably maintained, in traditional ways ments across the world. The unspoken company. It was not AIDESEP, the or- of the people over their traditional where heavy sums of compensation
for thousands of years, was now a re- assumption is that indigenous people, ganisation being blamed for the crisis, lands. In Peru, unlike Malaysia, there are being paid to indigenous people,
source to be cut up and represented by whether the Penan of Sarawak or the that was involved in these negotiations, are provisions for adherence to the and the trust between the people and
bits of paper, bought, sold and passed Indians of the Amazon, are primitive, but the Peruvian government. And it’s most powerful of these conventions, the government has suffered a series
down to children. It changed relations naïve people unable to identify or rep- negotiations such as these that the ILO 169. But we would do well to note of potentially fatal blows.
within and between communities. It resent their own interests. Malicious protests are hoping to prevent, nego- what happens when the provisions
destroyed entire peoples. And it is still outsiders are able to manipulate this tiations and land alienation. are ignored. The idea of free, prior Sonia thinks liberty and equality are
causing death and destruction. naïvety for publicity and to bring legiti- The Peruvian government has and informed consent was developed the only real guarantors of security.
The most violent eruption of this mate governments into disrepute. said that the law will be repealed and primarily to avoid conflict, ensure that Comment: letters@thesundaily.com.

More than meets
use the ballot box to express its urban sympathisers. It reforms. Several within the
those disagreements. was preceded by the party’s party have called for direct
Indeed, I shall do my election for party posts, the elections for party posts,
duty in reminding everyone results of which have been and the president himself
that there is already a figure widely been interpreted to has signalled a need for
of unity for all Malaysians, be a victory of a “conserva- reforms and a review of the
and that is the Yang diPer- tive” faction over a “more party constitution. But we’ll

the eye
tuan Agong, who represents liberal” school of thought need to wait and see how
Abiding all of us regardless of our within the party. There is extensive these will be.
Times ethnic background. His
Majesty takes precedence
much curiosity about how
the party will move forward,
The Malaysia Think Tank
has been advocating the
by Tunku ‘Abidin precisely because he is our particularly since there was democratisation of political
Muhriz paramount figurehead. We a furore over the call to ban parties for some time now,
ask for his safe reign in Sisters in Islam (which was, so these are welcome signs.
our national anthem after it is now admitted, a mis- If the parties themselves are
UNLIKE the Transformers a “Keris of Leadership” that cept of “unity” in this column collectively shedding our take). On the other hand, democratic then the state
(warning: spoilers ahead), would, if unsheathed in some before: one could produce a symbolic blood and extolling the party is on its way to assemblies and Parliament
split into the Autobots and distant future, magically slay catalogue of intra-Malay the virtues of living with one opening up full membership will be too. Their ranks will
Decepticons whose eternal discord among the race. What conflict, including numerous another in peace. That is to non-Muslims, which is a be much more accustomed
enmity has a clear and undis- we do have is a constitution, civil wars and lesser rivalries, the unity which, our coat of significant step. to competing with other
puted origin, Malays support- wherefrom our institutions, and it would be thicker than arms declares, “is strength”. In the meantime, PKR people, and familiar with
ing different political parties some ancient and some mod- the Port Klang Free Zone The role of politicians does has transformed into a the idea that they serve at
have no such back-story. ern, derive their continued le- report. Of course, I don’t not feature. much more democratic the grassroots’ behest.
We, the people of Malaysia, gitimacy, and through which condone war, but the point is If politicians are to “unite” party, after the passing of However, what no party
including all those of us the the aspirations and freedoms that Malays have disagreed there ought to be some good amendments to introduce has yet effectively tackled is
government recognises as of the Malaysian people are with each other in the past, public policy or ideologi- term limits and directly the selection of candidates for
Malay, have multiple herit- supposed to be protected and and often allied with non- cal grounds for them to do elect the party president, state and federal elections,
ages. The ancient Malay rul- advanced. Malays to emerge victorious. so: if not, the endeavour is in addition to lowering the which is still determined by
ers did not collectively forge We’ve discussed this con- The difference is that now we nakedly about power. It’s qualifying age of the youth the leadership. Without pri-
otherwise expected that wing. The requirement for maries or caucuses, YBs are
they should disagree with women to comprise 30% of less likely to feel beholden to
each other, and I reckon all decision-making com- their constituents, and less
most Malaysians prefer it mittees suffers the usual resistant to defection. I hope
that way. We want them to problems of such targets, that one of our great politi-
come up with different ways which is that more qualified cal parties takes the lead on
to tackle the nation’s prob- men may lose out, and some this. It’s the most foolproof
lems, secure our freedom women might consider it method of getting independ-
and increase our prosperity, condescending that they ent constituency-minded
so that we have a genuine need this provision, but parliamentarians, instead of
choice every five years. overall it’s a big step in the deceptive automatons.
Now, although PAS has democratisation of our poli-
re-affirmed its fraternity tics, and hopefully all other Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz is di-
with its Pakatan partners, political parties take note. rector of the Malaysia Think
the episode might have Indeed since last year Tank (waubebas.org). Com-
already incurred electoral there have also been voices ments: letters@thesundaily.
costs to the party among in Umno advocating internal com.

letter
letters@thesundaily.com

Give Sikhs a voice
EVER wondered if there are Sikhs in Malaysia in They have made achievements but solely on
the hardcore poor group? Like other communi- their own and with their community’s help.
ties Sikhs too have unsettled matters. And they Surely, the government has a role here.
need help and support with their lives. Some attempts have been made, and occa-
Many may think that the Sikhs are all right sionally, to have them solved but not effectively.
and have no problems, but they do. Maybe their While it is appreciated to have a voice at state
plight is just unknown and they have to face the level, like now proposed in Perak, there must also
challenges themselves! be voices at the national level to reach the prime
Who is listening to them and their woes? Is minister. Sikhs should not be left aside but be
it because they have no political clout that they brought into mainstream Malaysian life and their
are easily ignored? problems taken heed of and solved.
As I see it, they have many problems in mat- And that would be in the 1Malaysia spirit.
ters of land (TOL), single mothers, job opportuni-
ties for their youth, language (study of Punjabi), Bulbir Singh
foreign Sikh priests, and education. Seremban