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Suhakam says has its eye on Sabah government after Bajau Laut homes demolished in controversial eviction

File picture of a video posted by Borneo Komrad on social media showing several men, some in uniform, smashing a wooden hut on a beach with large sticks before burning it down. — Facebook

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) said it is closely monitoring the recent evictions by the Sabah government against the Bajau Laut community in Semporna.

Suhakam said there is a need to assess the broader humanitarian impact of these actions despite prior notice given to the affected communities.

“We encourage ongoing dialogue and collaboration between the state government, the Bajau Laut community, and humanitarian organisations to develop sustainable and inclusive strategies that address broader issues while respecting the rights and dignity of all individuals involved.

“Suhakam remains committed to monitoring the situation closely and working towards solutions that uphold human rights,” it said in a statement.

This comes as several homes were demolished as part of the Sabah state government’s initiatives to enhance security and protect the environment within the Tun Sakaran Marine Park.

Suhakam said the Bajau Laut is a unique and historically marginalised community facing significant challenges, including limited access to basic services such as healthcare and education.

While recognising the state government’s intention to enhance security, Suhakam emphasised the importance of a balanced approach that addresses the immediate needs of those affected by the demolitions.

It also advocated for immediate assistance to be provided to the displaced members of the Bajau Laut community, including ensuring access to temporary housing, medical care, and educational resources to minimise the disruption to their lives.

The eviction exercise earned some criticism after videos showing the homes being demolished, some by plainclothes men, were spread on social media.

In response, the Sabah state government denied any human rights violation and accused some in the community of burning down their own homes to gain sympathy.

The Bajau Laut is a sea-faring community, many living offshore in wooden houseboats or huts built on stilts in and around Semporna island. Their nomadic culture dates back centuries before sea borders and they have earned a reputation for their ability to hold their breath underwater for extended periods.

Activists are calling for more humane treatment as the community, born at sea, has no identification documents or access to basic facilities such as education, financial, or health services, making them vulnerable to deportation and any enforcement exercise.

 

Source: The Borneo Post

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