Nothing unusual about such harassment by the Ruling Class towards any group seen as acting against their interests.

Orang Asli claim harassment, bullying

Hazlan Zakaria
Oct 4, 10

A group of Orang Asli from Kampung Sebir, near Seremban in Negeri Sembilan, today spoke out against what they say has been "harassment" and "bullying" by the police and the Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA).

"We are saddened and insulted by the actions (of the police) against us Orang Asli," said Zurdi Baharu, one of the representatives from the Orang Asli community in Kampung Sebir.

About 15 Orang Asli (right) from the village met with reporters during a press conference at the Bar Council building in Kuala Lumpur to air their grouses.

On Sep 30 and for several days after that, the Orang Asli said, they were repeatedly harassed and bothered by police and JHEOA officials who wanted them to apply for a permit for a perjumpaan adat or customary meeting that they wanted to hold.

The Orang Asli claim that they never before had to apply for a permit or permission to hold their customary meetings.

Harassments 'strange'

Labelling the harassments by the police as "strange" Negeri Sembilan Orang Asli Villages Network (JKOANS) representative Tijah Yok Chupin, who also spoke at the press conference, said she believed the harassments were to stop her from talking to the Kampung Sebir Orang Asli.

I was supposed to speak to them at the meeting. They wanted to know the feedback from the government on our protest in Putrajaya last March against the move to amend the Orang Asli Act.

" "If I was not invited, the police would not have harassed them," said Tijah (right in picture).

She sees the harassment as an attempt to stop the Orang Asli from discussing the upcoming amendments to the Orang Asli Act 1954, something they were not consulted on, and which they fear would be detrimental to their livelihood.

Last March the Orang Asli, including those from Kampung Sebir, marched to Putrajaya to submit their protest against the proposed amendments. Till now, they are yet to see any action from the government to address their concerns.

Agreeing with her, Bar Council president K Ragunath said the government should consult the stakeholders on the proposed amendments.

"The amendments may have a large and drastic impact on the rights of the Orang Asli," said the lawyer.

He alleged that the government was trying to fast-track the amendments to avoid discussions and debate. Hence the attempts to prevent the Orang Asli from discussing the matter in their customary meetings.

" Why is this so, when many such meetings take place elsewhere without need of a permit?" asked Ragunath (left in picture).

Also at the press conference, former Bar Council president and current chair of the council's committee on Orang Asli rights, S Ambiga (right), demanded that the government present to them and the Orang Asli a copy of the proposed amendments so that they could study it.

Logic questioned

Ambiga also questioned the logic of some of the proposed amendments that have come to light despite the veil of government secrecy.

"We hear snippets about the bill, that the government proposes to give two to six acres of land to the Orang Asli, but what good is this if hundreds of acres of ancestral land are taken away? Taking away their ancestral land is like taking away their culture!

"There is also a clause to prevent the Orang Asli from taking the matter to the courts in the future. Why is there a need for this?" she said.

Tijah said that their presence at the press conference today was to express the disappointment of the Orang Asli for being treated like second class citizens and being marginalised despite 53 years of living in an independent Malaysia.

"We are a rich people, but it is government policies that are making paupers of us, policies that have seen our wealth and land taken away.

"We can no longer stand the harassment and insults. That is why we are here today, to tell you this," she added.

The amendment to the Orang Asli Act is said to be ready to be tabled during the coming session of Parliament, though the government has been tight-lipped on its contents.

Orang Asli rights NGOs and other activists are concerned that the amendments may strip the Orang Asli of the rights and titles to their native customary lands prior to the land being gobbled up by hungry developers. Malaysiakini. Subscription required.