Youths raise indigenous rights profile
The fight against indigenous peoples' rights violation would be a huge challenge said a local journalist.
KOTA KINABALU: The Indigenous Youths Network of Malaysia wants access to the mainstream media as well as assistance to develop new media to help them preserve their language, culture and lands.
Known as ‘Jaringan Belia Orang Asal SeMalaysia’ (JBOAS), they believe their marginalised community is fragmenting and losing their rights to land their forefathers had been toiling for years and replaced by large corporations and business interests.
A two-day media symposium for representatives of indigenous youths from all over the country organised by the Indigenous People Network of Malaysia held this week hopes to raise the profile of the community that has been largely ignored as the nation progresses.
Sponsored by the Rainforest Foundation of Norway, the symposium organised by the Indigenous People Network of Malaysia (JOAS) and attended by 31 youths, was held at the Partners of Community Organisations (Pacos) Lumunu clubhouse in Penampang near here as a follow-up programme of the Orang Asal Youths jamboree in Miri, Sarawak in August.
The youths who took part are hoping to highlight issues especially those concerning land, politics, economy and education facing Malaysia’s indigenous people.
Leaders of the youth wing of the movement said the imbalance in the treatment of their community must be redressed and their first step to compel the government to safeguard their rights under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Undrip) is to use the mass media.
Undrip was adopted on Sept 13, 2007. It sets out the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples, as well as their rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health, education and other issues.
The Declaration emphasises the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their own institutions, cultures and traditions and to pursue their development in keeping with their own needs and aspirations.
It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples and promotes their full and effective participation in all matters that concern them, and their right to remain distinct and to pursue their own visions of economic and social development.
The elected JOAS officials from Sabah and Sarawak are chairman Nousi Giun from Penampang, deputy chairman Edwin Meru of Ba’kelalan, Sarawak. Goh Fung Yian of the Sarawak-based Borneo Resources Institute (BRIMAS) is secretary.
Assistant secretary is Roslia Gampat from Kota Belud, Jenita Engi of the peninsula-based Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) is treasurer assisted by Anthony Simon of Togudon, Penampang.
The three elected to head Focal Point Setup Region – Anthanasius Akin from Simbuan Sook for Sabah, Eric Serengeh Usek of BRIMAS (Sarawak) and Mohd Sharul Irwan Naim Abdullah of the Perak Orang Asli Villages Network for the Peninsular Malaysia region.
Local journalist Leonard Alaza who facilitated the symposium told FMT that the fight against indigenous peoples’ rights violations would be a huge challenge.
“We will try to set up our own media and disseminate news in our own languages as well as work to ensure the government-owned media reflects indigenous culture without discrimination,” he said.
JOAS, a Sabah-based non-profit organisation, is an umbrella network of 51 community-based organisations and supporting non-governmental organisations advocating indigenous people rights in Malaysia.
It was set up after a meeting of indigenous youths representatives from throughout the country in 1996 and registered in 2009. The organisation’s office is at Donggongon, Penampang.