April 8, 2006

Orang Asli

Posted in Malaysia at 12:15 am by egalitaria

The true princes of Malaysian earth, the community of the Orang Asli, is by large the most marginalised group in our country. While our country goes through major efforts in its attempt to ensure the rights of the Bumiputera are enshrined in the Constitution and that policies are formulated to push for this, many forget that Orang Aslis are as much if not more so Bumiputera material!

Domestic laws have not given much protection to the Orang Asli. A special unit has been set up to protect and aid them, but to what end? They don't even have proper rights to their land they live on; and land that their forefathers had always lived on, I might add.

Last Saturday I had the privilege of visiting a small village in Sungai Buloh, under a continuous project of CDPC and Malaysian Care. Helped to teach English to these kids, who, although living so near the city centre, choose not to go to school because they get discriminated against in school.

One story from another village is that despite government's efforts for free material and clothes, it takes such a lot of red tape to get it right. Shoes and clothes don't fit. You have to go through lengths of explaining before you get your free stuff!

What struck me was their simplicity in living. No requirement of anything other than basic food and water. And yet, what a beautifully simple environment. As we forcibly drew the attention of the little uns to the alphabet, and we droned on in A-B-C, I couldn't help but drift off to the sounds of a guitar and singing in the background. Kampung-style, sitting by the steps and singing happy tunes with dogs running crazily around at your feet. Why urbanise the happy rural folk?

If it is for one reason, it is for their future substinence. As more and more ground is gazetted for development, sooner or later their source of food will be depleted. Hunting for wild boars, monkeys and snakes will be a thing of the past. And they'll be forced out into their version of "wild" – proper office jobs. Think Crocodile Dundee oblivion of city life.

But call me Ulu. It still thrills me to the bone to experience living by the jungle, using the river stream as a source of water, swinging on a hammock and raising my eyebrows high at the sight of a pet baby monkey clinging on to a little girl's chest.

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