The Orang Asli Dilemma

I think I slept for about a full twelve hours last night.

I meditated.

I was then brought a breakfast of roti canai by my aunty and we touched base.

For lunch, I went with my cousin and her friend for some real good banana leaf somewhere near PJ.

Spoilt for food, am I right?

After stuffing my face all day, I got dropped at Jaya One where I made my way over to The School. Considered to be Malaysia’s first ‘enrichment mall’ with intentions of promoting better education, they provide classrooms for hire, interesting events and many of the lots are occupied by establishments that create spaces for learning. Also, there is a little bit of retail indulgence on the side.

My visit happened upon a huge, two day market event by Art For Grabs themed “Fifty Shades of Green.” It boasted around ninety different booths and stalls. I perused around whilst waiting for my friend, Tony. I checked out the cool zines, and had a wonderful chat with the people running Pogunsavat Craftwork , making and selling beautiful artisan jewellery from North Borneo. Got myself a pair of earrings. The Gerakbudaya Bookshop pop-up also made an appearance at Art For Grabs! I purchased two books on Malaysian Art History to wisen up and the contentious Money Logging by Lukas Straumann, notably the director of the Bruno Manser Fund.

As part of Jaya One’s Earth Hour celebration, a wayang kulit performance by the Fusion Wayang Kulit team occurred. Another great event included the forum A Batik Revolution: Save Our Dyeing Rivers, highlighting issues surrounding the pollutants in batik-making.

But the main reason I attended was for Whose Forest Is It Anyway? The Orang Asli Dilemma, a forum that centred around the logging in the Kelantan region and the infamous blockades constructed by the Orang Asli. This is not unlike the crimes against nature and the people of the rainforest in Borneo, as described in Money Logging.

Orang Asli literally translates to Original Man. They are the true, native people of Malaysia and consist of some of the most peaceful tribes on the planet. I fiercely champion indigenous rights, especially within Malaysia, where corruption is so rife that these people are treated with little to no regard. I would go so far to equate the problem with the Aborigines of Australia and the Native Americans but of course, the Orang Asli are far less known in global discourse.

The talk focused on the Temiar as two instrumental members of their community were there to speak, and they are directly affected by the logging activity. The panel included Nora Kantin & Mustafa Along, Temiar-Orang Asli activists from Gua Musang; Roger Chan, Malaysian Bar Council’s Committee on the Environment; Lim Teck Wyn, Forestry consultant and Technical Director of Resource Stewardship Consultants Sdn Bhd; and was moderated by Colin Nicholas, Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC).

Uninformed of projects and developmental plans, aggressive logging sanctioned by the PAS-led Kelantan government is infringing upon their ancestral homelands. This place is the second oldest rainforest in the world, after Borneo, and although the Temiar community are not estranged to outside developments, they still practice an ancient way of life. They are the guardians of the forest and its creatures. Ancestral graves have been destroyed. Their blockades have been burnt to the ground and torn to shreds via chainsaws and machetes, even shots have been fired. Continued illegal logging has created floods further along the river, downstream where the settlements have been underwater for weeks into the new year. The plantations that spread out as far as the eye can see, have also caused the waters to become polluted. The ‘developmental’ destruction is detrimental to their lands and way of life.

Many loggers have gangster affiliates and there have been times when police impersonators have appeared at the blockades.

The Forestry Department is under the jurisdiction of each individual state whereas the Orang Asli department is handled by the Federal Government, where we can easily see that welfare is divorced from law. The Forestry Department has also confiscated motorcycles from the Orang Asli, which is their main transport, hence limiting their movements and making communication more difficult. You ever tried to get signal in the rainforest?

Court action is underway with fantastic lawyers like Siti Kasim helping out, and NGOs offering their support to the Orang Asli.

Malaysia is all very corrupt.

You can check the full forum uploaded on Facebook.

My red hair appears in the first five minutes or so. Try not to get distracted by my fidgeting.



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