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Orang Asli in Perak apprehensive

BIDOR, 24 Feb 2009: Orang Asli community leaders in Perak are worried that the state’s recent political developments will signal a return to a disregard of their rights.

“We feel concern and sadness at what happened. Where are we in all this? Will Orang Asli issues, that were hot in the last 10 months, once again be sidelined?” said Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Perak (JKOAP) secretary Tijah Yok Chopil.

Tijah, a Semai, revealed that in the days following the swearing in of the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as menteri besar on 6 Feb, several trees in the forest near Kampung Chang, in the outskirts of Bidor, had been marked with red paint for logging purposes.

“There are helicopters flying around, surveying the land,” she said when met here on 14 Feb.

Other Orang Asli leaders in the state who spoke to The Nut Graph said logging activities in Sungai Siput, which were halted and had their permits revoked by the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government, have also been renewed.

A sand mining operation upriver from Kampung Pos Bersih, which was stopped only a week before, was restarted on 12 Feb, they added.

On 14 Feb, Tijah chaired a meeting of Semai leaders from 10 separate Orang Asli villages between Tanjung Malim and Ipoh in Kampung Chang, Sungai Gepai, where her village is.

The meeting discussed the fall of the PR state government and the BN takeover of Perak, and its effects on Orang Asli issues.

“For 51 years we have not been treated as citizens, but squatters. In our lands, no one lives there, according to the government,” said Yok Pis Chenadang, a representative from Kampung Pos Bersih.

He was commenting on the fact that Orang Asli are typically seen as nomadic, even though they have been living there “from before the British”.

Tijah Yok Chopil and other members of the Orang Asli community

He explained that while many want to plant commercial crops such as rubber and palm oil, they were prohibited from doing so as the land was officially owned by the state government.

“We are like people hung from the sky, not with our feet on the ground,” Yok Pis added.

PR’s policies

Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin’s 10-month administration took proactive measures to address the welfare of Perak’s indigenous peoples.

In 2008, the now embattled menteri besar cancelled logging and plantation activities around Gopeng. The PR state government also announced the return of 900 acres of ancestral land to the Orang Asli of Mukim Teja and Bidor.

Perak’s Orang Asli Taskforce Committee, set up in October 2008 under the PR administration, was also unprecedented.

The body, chaired by senior state exco Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham and including representatives from the Orang Asli community, was designed to get as many Orang Asli territories issued with permanent titles as possible. Geographical and historical surveys of the Orang Asli ancestral lands were carried out with the taskforce’s assistance.

“Since independence, we have never felt like Malaysians. In the 10 months of the Pakatan Rakyat state government, we felt the promise of citizenship begin to be fulfilled,” Tijah, who has been the taskforce’s main liaison officer, said.

She revealed that the PR state government’s overtures were the first time her community had been invited to discuss, negotiate, and air their grouses as equals.

Asked to comment about the possibility of the BN changing its 51-year-old policy on the Orang Asli to adopt the PR’s policies, Tijah said: “We will appreciate that.”

However, Tijah said her community was not confident of that prospect. “We are not mocking, discounting, or threatening them. But we won’t be surprised [if they stopped these policies]. Perak is now controlled by the 51-year-old government,” she said of the BN takeover of the state.

There are approximately 48,000 Orang Asli in Perak, with 216 registered settlements. Land is the biggest issue affecting this community, as most depend on forest produce to make a living.

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18 Responses to “Orang Asli in Perak apprehensive”

  1. lakshmi says:

    Orang Asli, the only original people of this country and they have been side-lined. And those who come from the rest of the Nusantara to peninsula Malaysia claim to be the originals. What a laugh.

  2. TLim says:

    Interesting … will the mainstream media dare to publish this?

  3. GeoGeo says:

    Just give these Orang Asli what is rightfully theirs.

  4. Orang Asli should be respected and their land should be protected.

  5. D Lim says:

    I sympathise with the Orang Asli (afterall I am an Ipohnite!). It is time we learn to more creative and economically and environmentally viable ways to earn our monies. Chopping down trees, unfortunately, is the easy way to fortune … depriving those who depend on it, be it humans or animals their livelihood and natural habitat.

    I despair each time I drive home to Ipoh to see the limestone hills I always associate with “reaching home” and “my Ipoh home” disappearing because some sought to mine the limestone to sell.

  6. Lawa says:

    Saudara / saudari Orang Asli,

    Kami bersimpati dengan perjuangan Orang Asli. Berkurun Orang Asli tinggal di Malaya tetapi masih dianggap sebagai bukan Bumiputera tulen. Hapuskan sokongan terhadap BN dan kroni-kroni mereka. Ada di kalangan Orang Asli yang telah menjadi tali barut BN. Mereka ini tidak kerja tetapi dibayar gaji oleh Kementerian Pertahanan. Jawatan mereka adalah sebagai “Pegawai Perhubungan” tetapi sebenarnya pengintip yang menyokong BN. Kepada mereka ini saya syorkan terus terima sajalah gaji bulanan tetapi harus bertukar sokongan kepada Pakatan Rakyat. Hanya Pakatan Rakyat yang benar-benar boleh bantu Orang Asli. Kekal dengan sokongan padat terhadap Pakatan Rakyat – bersama-sama kita berjuang demi Malaysia tercinta tanpa BN. Hidup Orang Asli.

  7. Andrew I says:

    The king of generalisations opined that those who were against development were those who wanted the indigenous people to remain in their natural habitat for observational reasons.

    As George Orwell (another sordid white) says, some are more equal than others.

  8. Nicholas.C says:

    Hear! Hear! These are about the only people truly deserving of being called Sons of the Soil. They literally live off it.

  9. os says:

    If Zambry did not help the orang asli like Nizar did, he is just like the ruling party of 51 years trying to dig gold into the land and ignore those who need help in his state. In order to change this oppression, it is time to change to new blood. Give us a good reason why we must vote for BN at this moment?

  10. TheMessenger says:

    They know better how BN govt have plundered their forest.

    “In the days following the swearing in of the Barisan Nasional (BN)’s Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as menteri besar on 6 Feb, several trees in the forest near Kampung Chang, in the outskirts of Bidor, had been marked with red paint for logging purposes.”

    What the … ?

  11. Teapot says:

    Nizar and his short lived government will be remembered a long time.

  12. tuanlokong says:

    Orang Asli must be given their rights…

  13. sans says:

    For all the propaganda against or for the PR govt, it is change of substance like this that means I will never vote BN again.

  14. cencurut says:

    They should send some memos to the sultan requesting their rights and their support for dissolving the Dun.

  15. humble chinaman says:

    Please, I implore everyone in their official capacities to help the Orang Asli. They are our family.

  16. adriene says:

    I wish to record my thanks and commendation to THe Nut Graph for covering news relating to Orang Asli, arguably the most marginalised community in Malaysia. Please keep it up. I will always keep reading.

  17. Gayathry says:

    One of the first things I expected the Zambry team to do was to reverse the decisions and people-oriented task forces created under the PR government. True enough, based on what Tijah has pointed out, the developers, loggers are back on the offensive. To me, this is one of the more apt descriptions of what the BN is all about: Rip out as much as we can from the people/earth. No talking, no compassion, no care about what is right or wrong. In terms of governance, how state and federal governments approach the problems faced by the Orang Asli community will tell a lot about the political will. I hope the JKOAP will have the support needed to demand for their rights.

    TLim asked if the mainstream media will dare publish this – a good challenge. I see that NST recently published the issues of the Orang Asli community in Negri Sembilan. I hope the journalists in Perak will “hound” this issue!

  18. Ann-Jessy says:

    BN, stop taking things from people.

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