• Izawati Wook Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia


The prevailing view about the Orang Asli’s occupation of land and access to forest resources are that they are ‘privileges’ extended by the states or at the governments’ discretion. It is widely believed that the Orang Asli live on the State land as tenant-at-will. This paper proposes to examine the position of the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 (Act 153) (the APA) and trace its historical background. It takes both historical and doctrinal approaches in the legal research methodology. Situated within this historical background, the principle that developed from it and the position of the laws, the paper argues that under the principle of respect to the rights of the existing inhabitants, the law recognizes the rights of the Orang Asli to their land and resources that arose from their custom and practice. The APA establishes a framework to recognize and protect these rights. There is no legal basis for the perception that the Orang Asli live on the State land on the benevolence of the State.

: Legal history; Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954; Indigenous peoples; Orang Asli; Peninsular Malaysia.

Author Biography

Izawati Wook, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia
Izawati Wook is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Syariah and Law in Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia. She holds a PhD from Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia. She is also admitted as an Advocate and Solicitor of the High Court of Malaya with professional practice experience in civil litigation. She has been teaching law for more than 10 years in subjects including Malaysian Legal System, Legal Method and Bankruptcy and Winding Up.   Her main research interests are the indigenous peoples’ issues both under the local and international law, mostly on aspects of human rights, land and forest. Others include legal education and customary land law. She has published articles in journals and presented papers in both national and international conferences. She may be contacted at:

Area of interest: Indigenous Peoples & Law, Law of Forestry, Human Rights, Customary Land

How to Cite
WOOK, Izawati. THE ABORIGINAL PEOPLES ACT 1954 AND THE RECOGNITION OF ORANG ASLI LAND RIGHTS. UUM Journal of Legal Studies, [S.l.], v. 6, p. 63-83, dec. 2015. ISSN 0127-9483. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 16 oct. 2021. doi: