OPINION: Familiar Story for The Native Landowners of West Malaysia

OPINION: Familiar Story for The Native Landowners of West Malaysia
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像
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Thugs and police were used to stop a protest by an indigenous group against logging in Malaysia.

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While Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak and his profligate wife wandered around Berlin talking mega-trade deals earlier this week, native landowners back home were experiencing a cruel injustice at the hands of the state.

It is Najib’s job to protect the rights of all his voters, yet according to the Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) the folk of Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan had their blockade against illegal logging on their land dismantled by armed police, who were accompanied by a gang of 30 un-uniformed thugs.

Such scenes have played out many times in Sarawak in East Malaysia as the backdrop to the wipe-out of the third largest jungle in the world, in a matter of a mere three decades.

These lands and timber do not belong to the loggers, oil palm concession holders or to their political cronies, who had organised their licences for a price, they belong to the native people who were granted these territories as their right at the foundation of Malaysia.

What we have seen in Sarawak, time and again, is the muscling of native peoples out of their land rights by brute force, backed by corrupt political figures and agencies such as the police. Now here in West Malaysia in 2016 it turns out that we are seeing the very same forces playing out in remaining forest areas and no one is lifting a finger from Najib’s government, it seems, to counter such injustice.

Where was the police chief for the area during such an operation carried out using transport belonging to the logging company itself?

This clear corrupt practice, condoned by people in high places, is the people’s increasing daily lot, suffered not only in the dictatorships of East Malaysia now, but clearly in West Malaysia also.

This scenario is exactly what happens when a government is preoccupied only by its own survival and is willing to bribe, threaten and break every rule in order to ensure it. For Najib, the actual job of governing, which is to ensure basic justice and protection for the people, has long ceased to be a priority.

Instead, he is focussed on paying off his UMNO henchmen, so they keep supporting and protecting him.

Such corruption within the leadership quickly filters down, so that the smaller beasts will start looking for their own pickings, protected in the knowledge that the tainted man at the top can no longer move against their evil deeds.

Beneath them come the companies and thugs, who directly exploit vulnerable people like these landowners in Kelantan. As for the police? They have long since learnt their role is not to uphold the law, but to service the criminal classes who are in charge – and take their cut.

This disgraceful incident is just one snapshot of the growing breakdown of law and order and exploitation of the weak that bad governance brings and which is now besetting West as well as East Malaysia.

But what does Najib care, if he can make some mega-trade deal to keep the Germans sweet? As for his wife? With an opportunity to shop in Europe, she will only have been troubled by the choice of colour of her latest hundred thousand dollar handbags.

Germany, meanwhile should keep a steady eye on their own banks and the danger that their involvement in corruption in Malaysia could fall under with widening spotlight of 1MDB, whose bankers included Deutsche Bank itself.

The News Lens International has been authorized to repost this article. The piece was first published by Sarawak Report.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole