On the 23rd November 2018, the MalayMail published an article on the Perak Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu.
Within the article, the Perak MB raised his concern that if aid were continuously channeled to the Orang Asli community – without the community coming up with their own initiatives – funds would be wasted.
He stated in a press conference on the 8th of November 2018;
The government is ready to help but we are asking them to forget about the culture of expecting outsiders to provide items and help them.
And if they feel their village has potential as a tourist attraction, then I suggest that they improve their settlements first, then we might consider approving the help they require
However, not everyone agrees with his point of view.
Lawyer and Orang Asli advocate, Siti Kasim expressed her disappointment with the statement given by Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu.
In her Facebook post, she voiced her frustration with the Menteri Besar’s tone-deaf statement.
Here are the key points from the post.
The Orang Asli are one of the most self-sustainable communities in Malaysia – relying on nature’s resources rather than money.
However, the destruction of the Orang Asli’s ancestral lands – i.e the forest – is the main factor that is impeding their ability to live.
This is made worst due to the fact that the destruction of those forests is aided by the Malaysian authorities.
Repercussions that Orang Asli face from the loss of land include; the depletion of natural dyes used in their material culture – i.e traditional weaving, music and arts.
The Malaysian authorities and the public ‘ have a legal and moral obligation to put a stop’ to the exploitation in the Orang Asli lands.
Both the Perak MB’s and Siti Kasim’s statement comes at the heels of a trying time for the Orang Asli communities in Malaysia.
Just last week, we covered a story where an Orang Asli man from Semenyih has been charged with murder.
His alleged victim has died in police custody. However, there have severe discrepancies found in regards to his arrest and also the legal procedures.
In Gua Musang district of Kelantan, the Temiar Orang Asli have been part of a long 8-month struggle against plantation companies.
Initial blockades, which were put up on the 8th of February 2018, was a bid to stop a plantation company from trespassing and destroying their ancestral land.
However, in recent months, things have become increasingly hostile between the company and the Temiars.
This is as loggers continuously destroy the Orang Asli’s blockade and physically threaten the protestors onsite.
200 officers tear down Orang Asli blockades in Gua Musang.
— TheMalaysianInsight (@msianinsight) August 27, 2018
According to Siti Kasim, the Orang Asli lack protection from the authorities when it comes to their land rights.
As she states;
…legal instruments have gone almost entirely unenforced and unimplemented in the existing culture of impunity and corruption
This is despite the fact that Malaysia is a signatory of the United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).