2015 Volume 3 Issue 1 Pages 98-118
What is the best way in designing a credible institution? Can one be designed using a top approach through mass social engineering where rules mainly come from the top level? Or designed from the bottom level where the rules of the institution are taken from the local level? Do the socio-economic contexts of the local people need to be considered in designing policies? These are the main empirical and theoretical questions that this paper intends to answer. This paper is a study of the land rights impact on two Indigenous groups in Malaysia, namely the Orang Ulu and the Orang Asli. Both Indigenous groups have been affected by the Bakun Hydro Electric Project (BHP) in Sarawak and the Kelau Dam Project (KDP) in Pahang. By using land rights as a subject of exploration, this paper demonstrates how the development of resettlement schemes carried out in Malaysia have failed in giving credibility to the institution. In this research study, land rights impacts are part of the impacts caused by the development project which has involved Indigenous people who have strongly relied on land as a source of their livelihood. This research study has employed a mixed method study which involves various data generation instruments, namely survey, interview, observation as well as content analyses. This research study has found that the negative impacts of the loss of land rights have altered the ways Indigenous people governed their land including how they own, use and enforce the land system. It was obvious that land rights are a fundamental feature in creating a credible institution in the context of Indigenous people in Malaysia. This paper hopes to illustrate the indigenous peoples’ perception on the loss of their land rights as well as to enrich the debates on the credibility of the institution.