While we are all searching for the key to unlock the rural and Sabah Sarawak seats, please pay attention to this little mentioned SUHAKAM report.
I would like to draw your attention to the National Inquiry on Indigenous Peoples Land Rights conducted by SUHAKAM. The Final Report has been released on August 7 when it was announced the the government will form a national task force to study the recommendations proposed by the Report.
Yesterday, Bar Council issued a statement urging the government to adopt the recommendations rather than waiting for the findings of yet another task force. More importantly, Bar Council called for the Report to be tabled and debated in Parliament.
SUHAKAM's original plan is to table the report in Parliament on 18th July 2013 (the last day of the first session of Parliament). The intention was announced to the press but it was never materialised. Instead, the Report was handed over to Paul Low in the presence of Malaysia Institute of Integrity President, Mohd Tap Salleh.
Mohd Tap Salleh was appointed as the head of the National Task force. What was not made known to the media, however, was the fact that Tap was indeed an insider-cum-expert in indigenous peoples' issue as he was the Deputy DG of the Orang Asli Affaris Department in the 1990s. His doctorate on Orang Asli development is a critically acclaimed work. But one does wonder the redundant nature of a Task Force - whatever to be studied has been studied by the SUHAKAM panel.
As a close observer and to a lesser extent a participant during the Inquiry from 2010 - 2012, I was keenly aware of the bearing of such a study on the Orang Asal society, in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsula Malaysia. Thousands of Orang Asal who suffered from different degrees of land rights deprivation, who are generally not well educated, came out with solid preparations with documents and maps, pooled money and traveled from afar to the SUHAKAM inquiry. Never before they were accorded respect and importance by an authority (SUHAKAM), never before they see a glimmer of hope. They were given an avenue to voice up their problems and it was taken seriously by the government.
However, towards the end, it does seem SUHAKAM is under pressure to withhold the report. And, finally, when it was submitted earlier this month, it was done without informing and inviting the community leaders of the Orang Asal. All signs pointed too yet good another Report to be kept in the drawer.
But it shouldn't be so. For the Report contains comprehensive documentation of case studies around the country and policy recommendations that are well thought through and can be readily implemented, if there is political will.
Let us shed more light on the plight of the marginalised peoples. Politically, as I see it, the Report is a very powerful tool towards the end of further discrediting the BN government as well as offering an policy narrative to attract the OA community towards Pakatan
This is especially relevant to the political landscape in Sabah and Sarawak. We have to come out with a coherent land policy where the interests of the natives are taken into account to convince the voters. It is difficult but at least now we have a ready document to start with.
As a response, may I suggest two actions among the DAP MPs:
1. A joint statement (especially among the Sabah and Sarawak MPs) to call for the Report to be tabled and debated in Parliament
2. A close-door 1-hour briefing session during the next parliament session where an expert can brief the MPs on the gist of the report and its policy/political ramifications.