The Courts and the Restitution of Indigenous Territories in Malaysia
Erasmus Law Review , Volume 11 - Issue 1 p. 67- 79
Despite enjoying distinct and privileged constitutional statuses, the Indigenous minorities of Malaysia, namely, the natives of Sabah, natives of Sarawak and the Peninsular Malaysia Orang Asli continue to endure dispossession from their customary lands, territories and resources. In response, these groups have resorted to seeking justice in the domestic courts to some degree of success. Over the last two decades, the Malaysian judiciary has applied the constitutional provisions and developed the common law to recognise and protect Indigenous land and resource rights beyond the literal confines of the written law. This article focuses on the effectiveness of the Malaysian courts in delivering the preferred remedy of Indigenous communities for land and resource issues, specifically, the restitution or return of traditional areas to these communities. Despite the Courts’ recognition and to a limited extent, return of Indigenous lands and resources beyond that conferred upon by the executive and legislative arms of government, it is contended that the utilisation of the judicial process is a potentially slow, costly, incongruous and unpredictable process that may also not necessarily be free from the influence of the domestic political and policy debates surrounding the return of Indigenous lands, territories and resources.