You gotta rewind to free your mind.
On 4 January 2011, the most awesome collective known as LoyarBurokkers came up with their wishlist for 2011. It really is worth a re-read.
Anyway, now that 2011 has come and gone, let’s take a look back at what happened to the items on that wishlist. Did Lord Bobo grant any of those crazy, idealistic wishes?
1. Repeal of the ISA, UUCA/AUKU and other preventive legislation
Although the Prime Minister has said that the ISA will be repealed, and the Court of Appeal by a majority held that a part of Section 15 of the UUCA was unconstitutional, we aren’t holding our breath. The very fact that the Government is appealing the UUCA decision demonstrates that they have no interest in truly developing Malaysian youth to be politically-conscious and aware of their social and political rights. This, from a government dominated by UMNO despite the fact that UMNO encourages and facilitates the setting-up of Kelab UMNO by overseas students in foreign universities.
The repeal of Section 27 of the Police Act and its replacement by the Peaceful Assembly Act 2011 was an eye opener and classic Bait and Switch (as Human Rights Watch described it). And now the mysterious “Race Relations Bill” looms large.
LB did not, unfortunately, conduct any interviews at all with former ISA detainees. Oh well. Even minions of His Supreme Eminenceness have day jobs.
2. A more mature Malaysia
There is a growing maturity and sophistication in how Malaysians are appreciating national and political issues. There is a greater impetus now to examine the issues on the merits instead of simply taking the Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional camp. We sense a growing courage and realisation that Barisan Nasional are not all powerful and pervasive; there are cracks showing without that is a result from the decay within.
This courage is symbolised most recently by the student leader Adam Adli lowering the flag bearing Najib’s image. That is a very, very powerful symbolic statement that will reverberate throughout the country the more learn of it. It is also symbolic from a racial perspective because here you have a Malay educated youth removing the visage of a corrupt, incumbent representation of UMNO. It suggests that the Malays are starting to slowly unshackle themselves from the feudalistic tendencies that have so pervaded and corrupted not just Malaysia but Malay culture itself. So much can be written on that single act.
And yes, we know that what Adam Adli did is debatable. So debate it. Discuss it. Maturely. There are three sides to a coin (really).
The nation is changing. A revolution is coming.
3. Implementation of principles of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)
Minimal progress via government commission SUHAKAM, which through the leadership of Jannie Lasimbang launched the native land rights inquiry in 2011, covering West Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. Forums were held throughout the country to receive land rights complaints / abuses by indigenous communities. The inquiry ended late 2011, and a compiled report based on submissions received by indigenous communities and NGOs will be submitted to the government in 2012.
While it is very commendable that SUHAKAM has undertaken this very important task, it remains to be seen whether the government of the day would take all these complaints seriously and implement the suggestions made by SUHAKAM.
It is still a very top-down approach by the government. In 2011, the Federal Government embarked on transformation policies encompassing government, politics, economy, and rural areas. The Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) aims to fast-track development in Malaysia to create a high-income economy by 2020. ETP focus areas particularly in East Malaysia include palm oil, agriculture, tourism and oil, gas and economy and will involve lands currently occupied and/or claimed as ancestral lands by indigenous peoples. The soon-to-be-affected communities have not been adequately consulted in a free and fair process. The plans are large-scale and will have a negative impact on rural indigenous communities, further eroding their culture and rights to land.
The Federal and State governments, particularly in Sabah and Sarawak, are pushing for large-scale development projects that are not in the interest of indigenous communities, even though these projects carry the name of poverty eradication. Indigenous communities are also marginalised by their own elected representatives, some of whom are from indigenous communities themselves, and do not speak up for the interests of indigenous communities, but rather in favour of their own political party and/or large companies.
4. Recognition of customary land rights of indigenous peoples
There is a lack of (or no) engagement by those who claim rights over land in processes that affect land and resources. Many indigenous communities are not aware of development planning, mainly for cash crop agriculture, until it is too late. The government’s top-down approach in deciding how land is used, mainly for large-scale oil palm estates, does not factor meaningful consultation with the communities living on the land, nor factor their needs and requirements.
This year, indigenous communities in Sabah submitted a memorandum to the State Government in protest of the communal land title that was created in 2009, purportedly to answer the call by indigenous communities looking for legal recognition of native customary land. However the spirit of the communal land title is lost, for “participants” are legally required to plant oil palm and/or rubber on the land, and only a very small portion of land is meant for planting of food crops. This lack of complete ownership of the land has led to a loss of traditional way of life for many indigenous communities holding communal titles.
5. More public interest litigation
The LB Public Interest Litigation team takes some credit for the ending of the Emergency. Shortly after we filed a crucial test case asking for a mandamus order compelling the Cabinet to advise the Agong to end the Emergency, the Prime Minister moves his resolutions in Parliament to end the State of Emergency that has plagued our country for more than 40 years. Obviously this was the result of Lord Bobo’s whispers into the Prime Minister’s ear. Or it’s to win over public sentiment ahead of the General Elections. Take your pick.
Other test litigation include a ground breaking challenge to champion the rights of transgendered persons, and a test case to declare the law on sedition unconstitutional. LoyarBurokkers are also involved in inter-religious cases (Indira Ghandi / Zaina Abidin), which are equally important from the spiritual/soul aspect of Malaysia.
There can be no doubt that LoyarBurokkers have fulfilled this wish in 2011, and His Supreme Eminenceness is most pleased. Purple bananas all around! If you are a lawyer, please join us. If you are not a lawyer but are passionate about public interest litigation, you can still be part of our team. Email [email protected] — it’s never a waste of time to stand up for justice.
6. A more progressive judiciary
There has been little change in the KPI initiative that was forced down our throats by the previous Chief Justice. Although they have recanted formally that haste was not the primary goal of litigation, but informally it still goes on. The Chief Justice had given a speech titled “Access to Justice” which appeared to place great emphasis on expeditiousness as an element of “access to justice”. The quality of the judgments have not been improved, and this is reflected in the enormous amounts of appeals to the Court of Appeal. That is an indication of the lack of faith the public has in the adjudication process. This has spurred “rough justice” being meted out where cases are struck out on the court’s own motion, and not heard on mere technicalities despite counsels raising no objections.
Furthermore, the KPI system is merely quantitative, not qualitiative. The quality of decisions that have been emanating from the Federal Court have not positively developed the law. The current requirement for leave to appeal is a shambles, and the Federal Court just does as it pleases. There is still a sense that even if there are progressive elements in the judiciary, it will be hindered, if not reversed, in the appellate courts. If at all, the only progress on the part of the judiciary is its sophistication in masking the failure of its duties.
7. A thorough re-evaluation of the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli (JHEOA)
There really has been no progress. Again, the Federal Government takes a top-down approach in dealing with Orang Asli affairs. It is indeed strange for a country to deal with its primary indigenous peoples like wildlife, where they do not even have their own autonomy over their affairs. The Federal Government controls Orang Asli affairs in a very “big brother” manner. Orang Asli however are fighting back, and organizing.
Since the historic march in 2010, Orang Asli communities have been protesting in large numbers over the loss of ancestral land. One recently held was on 14 December, where hundreds of Orang Seletar protested against the Johor State Government for giving their ancestral lands to developers of Iskandar Malaysia project along the Johor Straits.
Colin Nicholas, of the Centre for Orang Asli Affairs also received an award from the United Nations, which indicates that while there is a severe lack of attention from the Malaysian government over its own indigenous peoples, the international community are recognising the fight of those who try to give a voice to the Orang Asli. Malaysia should most definitely be ashamed!
8. Halting of projects that result in mass displacement of indigenous people
There was a little glimmer of hope when the Sarawak Government announced that the Baram Dam that would displace 20,000 indigenous peoples and destroy large forested areas, would be postponed this year. However, even the most hopeful would agree that this is likely an election tactic for the upcoming General Election.
There has been no indication since that the Baram Dam, and 11 other large-scale dams planned for Sarawak would be scrapped. There has been much criticism for these dams since Sarawak has excess electricity provision even before the Bakun Dam was built, forcing displacement of thousands of indigenous peoples.
The grand plan for Sarawak is SCORE, an economic transformation plan that would forever change the face of the state. It is worth noting that the displaced communities of Bakun are still waiting for jobs and other promises made by the State Government, and live in a crowded sink town. The communities of Mukah who live near an aluminum plant (another SCORE project) complain of aluminum poisoning. If this is the progress that the Sarawak State Government has envisioned, we shudder for the fate of the rest of the state.
The indigenous communities of Baram are not lying down without a fight, and are currently on an anti-dam campaign for the entire state. Let’s cheer them on.
9. Further growth of LoyarBurok
LoyarBurok is Malaysia’s first, and only, truly community and non-partisan blawg.
2012 heralds new plans to be unveiled progressively. Don’t miss the boat or you’ll kiss your float. Cult today, religion tomorrow. Free Your Mind. Salam perjuangan!
10. Amendment of Sarawak Natural Resources and Environment Ordinance 1994 (NREO 1994)
There has been absolutely no progress. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Tarak langsung.
Sarawak is on a missionary zeal to complete SCORE as soon as possible, and it is very unlikely that any laws would be amended to allow for better public participation for plans to either conserve or develop the state.
Lord Bobo’s friends in Sarawak tell us that the state is in a very dire situation, and that meaningful change can only come from the strong will of the local people. Would it be in time, before large-scale development changes Sarawak forever? Would local communities stand up and speak collectively in one voice? As of now, it looks like things have to get a lot worse for thousands of people before they start waking up.
We just hope it won’t be too late for Sarawak’s ecosystems and rural indigenous peoples fighting for their way of life.