The three Orang Asli arrested in Gerik yesterday are expected to be taken to the Gerik Magistrate Court this morning.
According to rights group The Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), the men – from the Temiar community in Kampung Sungai Papan – could be charged for causing mischief by rendering public roads, bridge or river impassable or unsafe.
The offence carries a punishment of up to five years in jail or a fine or both.
“Reports are varied as to what they will be charged for: Section 431 of the Penal Code (committing mischief by obstructing a public road) or Section 341 (wrongful restraint). But two of them will also be charged for not having their ICs with them,” COAC claimed in a Facebook posting today.
It added that a group of up to 57 Temiars have been keeping vigil at the Gerik Police Station since their arrest.
The Orang Asli have been at loggerheads with loggers in Kampung Sungai Papan over allegations the latter are encroaching on native customary land (NCR). This resulted in the Temiar community erecting a blockade to keep the loggers out.
Even so, the Perak government maintained its right to grant logging permits for the area.
The resulting conflict saw three Temiars being arrested last Saturday with police and loggers bringing down the blockade.
The trio was later released following a plea by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waythamoorthy.
Despite the minister’s appeal to state authorities to cease further arrests and not side with the loggers until the legal boundary of Orang Asli’s land rights is determined, police yesterday arrested three more Temiar men.
Waythamoorthy, who is in charge of Orang Asli Affairs, said the Federal Court had repeatedly recognised that Orang Asli customary land rights supersede the rights of the state governments under the Federal Constitution.
“Until the legal boundary of Orang Asli’s land rights are determined, I am of the view it is illegal for state authorities to unilaterally grant permits for developers to encroach and exploit the rights of these defenceless people without prior informed consent,” he had said.
Malaysiakini is contacting Gerik police for confirmation.