“Each generation of orang asli carried the knowledge of the seven or eight generations
before them…..but I feel the orang asli have been here for longer than that.
Longer than the formation of the Malaysian Government,
longer than the formation of Malaya and longer than the formation of any of the states”.

Mustafa Along, secretary of the Kelantan Network of Orang Asli Villages


According to the United Nations - Indigenous Peoples, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, indigenous peoples is defined as inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment and they have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live.


Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples. Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history, their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today, are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world


In 2018, the Commission received 73 complaints from Indigenous Peoples. Of the 73 complaints received, 43 complaints were related to the land rights violations and infringements.

The Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia constitute 18 groups with their own language, customs and traditions, and are about 0.5% of the Malaysian population.

The Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 grants Orang Asli usufructuary rights to their land – they can live off it and enjoy the fruits of the land, but they hold no titles.

It is estimated that less than 20% of Orang Asli land has been formally gazetted by the Government.

Pushing for Progress

SUHAKAM’s Recommendation

On the basis of the facts and determinations arising from Report of the National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Malaysia (National Inquiry Report), SUHAKAM is recommending the Federal and State Government to review domestic land laws and other related laws and policies, by incorporating a human rights focus in addressing the problems faced by Indigenous Peoples in their land claims; and, the formulation of strategies and a plan of action with the aim of protecting and promoting Indigenous Peoples’ right to land as an indivisible and integral part of the protection and promotion of their other human rights.

SUHAKAM’s Current Work

  • SUHAKAM has been conducting regular visits to schools and settlements of the indigenous communities to assess the status of education received by the indigenous community.

  • SUHAKAM holds meetings and discussions with the relevant stakeholders including indigenous community, the school authorities and relevant government agencies to discuss issues facing Orang Asli children’s access to education.

  • Regarding the National Inquiry Report recommendations, SUHAKAM is following up with the new Government on its implementation.

Pakatan Harapan Manifesto

Promise 38:
Advancing the interests of Orang Asal in Peninsular Malaysia


  • Pakatan Harapan wants to recognise, uphold and protect the dignity and rights of THE indigenous community.

  • To overhaul the Orang Asli Development Department (JAKOA) so that the Orang Asli are given the skills and independence to improve their lives and socio-economic conditions rather than being controlled by the department.

  • Customary land is important matter for indigenous peoples. The Pakatan Harapan Government will work to implement proposals from the National Inquiry Report on Indigenous Land Rights prepared by SUHAKAM in 2013.

  • More resources will be allocated to upgrade the infrastructure of the Orang Asli villages, including paved roads, 24-hour electricity grid, treated water supply and stable communication networks so that the Orang Asli communities are no longer marginalised.

  • The number of schools in Orang Asli villages will be increased and equipped with good facility to ensure their children receive quality education.


Promise 48:
To return and guarantee the right of customary land of the people of Sabah and Sarawak


  • A Special Land Tribunal will be established immediately to resolve disputes over land rights and boundaries of customary land and settlement of overdue cases.

  • Development undertaken in the Orang Asli areas must be in accordance with sustainable and environmentally friendly models, taking into account socio-cultural factors of surrounding communities, and it must enlist the active participation of indigenous people.


Sustainable Development Goals

Indigenous Peoples & the 2030 Agenda: The declaration calls for empowerment of indigenous peoples inclusive & equitable quality education for all, also indigenous peoples.  Engagement of Indigenous Peoples in implementing the Agenda.

Also include:

  1. Target 2.3: Double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular…indigenous peoples.

  2. Target 4.5: Ensuring equal access to all levels of education and vocational training …for indigenous peoples.

* Cited sources are referenced from here.

Want to learn more? Do also check out these videos from Kini.TV and Rojak Daily.

© 2019 A joint effort by SUHAKAM & UNAM Youth. All rights reserved.

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