KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 28 — The indigenous Orang Asli in Malaysia do not enjoy the same constitutional protection as Malays or Bumiputera from Sabah and Sarawak, former Court of Appeal judge Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Yunus said today.
Speaking at a lecture on the constitution and marginalised communities at Universiti Malaya today, Hishamuddin today urged Putrajaya to be “honest” with the Orang Asli and amend the constitution to afford them similar protection as Malays and Sabah and Sarawak Bumiputera.
“The Orang Asli do not enjoy equivalent constitutional rights and protection as Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak,” Hishamuddin said.
“There is no mandatory constitutional protection with respect to their language, laws, traditions and customs,” he added, referring to the constitutional protection for the Malay language and also Islam as a religion of the federation.
Hishamuddin also urged Putrajaya not to only pay attention to Orang Asli when a general election is nearing.
Hishamuddin expressed his disagreement with a Federal Court ruling last year which ruled that native customs have no force of law.
In a majority decision in December last year, a five-member panel of judges led by Chief Justice Tan Sri Md Raus Sharif ruled that native customs do not have the force of law to grant Dayaks to own communal land and forests next to cultivated farmlands.
“The ruling by Justice Rais on local customs not having force of law due to lack of codification is too simplistic a view,” he said.