Malaysia disallows UN Special Rapporteur to visit, assess treatment of indigenous people

Date of publication: 
16 March 2014

Malaysia has rejected a suggestion at the United Nations that the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights should be allowed to visit the country and evaluate the treatment of the Orang Ulu.

This was one of many recommendations which Malaysia has rejected since its Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations in October. The UPR is a process which involves a review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries.

In an appalling response regarding the rights of Malaysia’s indigenous communities, the Malaysian Government has rejected the following recommendations made by the Governments of Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

  • Allow for the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples (Denmark);
  • Ensure that laws on indigenous peoples as well as their implementation comply with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Switzerland);
  • Ensure the rights of indigenous peoples and local forest dependent peoples in law and practice, in particular regarding their right to traditional lands, territories and resources (Norway);
  • Establish an independent National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and ensure that laws, policies and their implementations are in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Sweden);
  • Establish an independent body to investigate disputes over land, territories and resources (New Zealand);
  • Take measures, with full and effective participation of indigenous peoples, to address the issues highlighted in the National Enquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Finland).

In contradiction to their usual rhetoric, the Malaysian Government have stated that they will not comply with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples or ensure that Native Customary Rights (NCR) are protected. The Malaysian Government has justified their response to these recommendations by stating that:

‘Malaysia continues to take steps to better protect and respect the human rights of its indigenous population. Towards this end, SUHAKAM had undertaken an independent National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the findings and recommendations of which were submitted to the Government in August 2013.’ ‘Currently, a Task Force comprising senior government officials, civil society representatives and academicians are in the process of determining, inter alia, details on which recommendations can be implemented in the short, medium and long term. As the Government does not wish to pre-judge the outcome of the Task Force’s deliberations, Malaysia is unable to accept these recommendations at this juncture.’

The report to which the Government refers to was originally leaked by Sarawak Report and took months before it was officially released. In the report Malaysia’s human rights commission SUHAKAM lambasted the Government on count after count over its conduct over native land rights. It concluded that the indigenous people of the region have been “forced to become Coolies in their own lands” by the actions of the Land Custody and Development Authority (LCDA).

By rejecting these recommendations, the Malaysian Government have made their opinion on the rights of Malaysia’s indigenous communities shockingly clear.

For the full United Nations declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples please follow this link –