Orang Asli Development: A New Starting Point Needed

January 17, 2019


Orang Asli Development: A New Starting Point Needed. It is time to stop playing  politics with their future.

By Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Image result for orang asli malaysia The neglected and humiliated original Malaysians. Time to stop playing  politics with their future.

In the last few weeks there has been an unusual flurry of press statements drawing attention to the Orang Asli community. They include the announcement of a national conference to be held on January 11 to discuss proactive proposals to resolve the issues faced by the 200,000 Orang Asli in our country.

The conference – which seems to have been aborted – was to have been preceded by a roundtable discussion on January 6 to identify the primary issues faced by the community, including rights to land, infrastructure access, education, the digital gap and youth empowerment.

Image result for orang asli malaysia

Simultaneously, the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail during a visit to Cameron Highlands declared that the Government was studying the need to create a comprehensive development plan in line with that of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 107 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples which encourages governments to involve Indigenous People in development projects and provides guidance on the protection of tribal people.

Observers may be forgiven if they have linked these announcements to the coming Cameron Highlands by election. Orang Asli votes comprise over 20% of the estimated 32,000 voters for this parliamentary constituency and are perceived to be a key swing factor in the much watched election taking place on 26 January.

Another Ditched Pakatan Harapan Promise?

Image result for dr wan azizah

For GOD’s sake, Wan Azizah– Get your priorities right

But perhaps the Orang Asli voters and the larger community in the country may want to give the benefit of the doubt to the new government in view of the promises contained in the Pakatan manifesto on the preservation of Orang Asli customary land rights and concern for their welfare and development.

Will this be one key election promise made by Pakatan that can be realized without too much delay and controversy?

After all, examination of the economic and socio-cultural indicators available including infant and child mortality, life expectancy, educational levels, income levels, etc. – and there can no dispute over them in respect to those of this minority community – point to the shameful reality that 60 years after independence, the Orang Asli community – indisputably the first peoples in the Malay Peninsula – remain the poorest, the most marginalized, and the most dispossessed of home, land, means of subsistence, history, language, culture and identity.

Image result for orang asli malaysia

To expedite the process of reintegration of Orang Asli into the mainstream of society, it is imperative that the old template for resolution of the community’s problems be discarded and a new starting point of reference is established to restore the rights and status of our first peoples.

New Starting Point to Correct Past and Present Wrongs

Here are 3 suggestions for the Pakatan government (and for whoever wins the Cameron by election) to consider:

  1. Ratify ILO convention 169 on indigenous and tribal peoples in place of ILO convention 106 which was introduced more than 60 years ago.  The newer convention 169 which came into force in 1991 but which Malaysia has yet to sign on has been found necessary in view of the worsening developments in the situation of indigenous and tribal peoples in all regions of the world. This has made it appropriate for countries to adopt new international standards and to remove the assimilationist orientation of the earlier convention.

                                   ILO Convention 169

Convention No. 169 represents a consensus on the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples within the nation-States where they live and the responsibilities of governments to protect these rights. It is based on respect for the cultures and ways of life of indigenous peoples and recognizes their right to land and natural resources and to define their own priorities for development. The Convention aims at overcoming discriminatory practices affecting these peoples and enabling them to participate in decision-making that affects their lives

2   Resolve the land problems of the Orang Asli communities by recognising their ownership right to customary and ancestral lands and providing them with permanent titles. This can begin with analysis of land office, survey, mapping, forestry and other archival records of British colonial rule as well as the records of the post-colonial government which can establish the boundaries of areas where the Orang Asli have had their traditional settlements and hunting-gathering territories; and which,during the colonial period, were demarcated and regarded as Orang Asli territories.

3.  Honour the Orang Asli by recognizing their rightful place in this country through a national apology or a similar declaration from the highest level of government expressing regret for the historical injustices done to the community; pledging and honoring to right past wrongs committed during the colonial and post-colonial era; and promising action to build a sustainable and meaningful future for the community.

To date national political apologies or official expressions of remorse have taken place in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States of America, Norway and Sweden.  Similar expressions have also been recently made by political leaders in some Latin American countries with indigenous communities.

A declaration to this effect would be a significant first for Malaysia in the ASEAN Community while we would be the second nation after Taiwan in Asia to provide such a political initiative.

This move has been seen by scholars researching the topic of apologies to indigenous peoples in comparative perspective as having the merit of putting things on record and as a prelude to reconciliation and correction of ethical flaws in the state political culture.

More importantly to me, an official expression would demonstrate the nation’s commitment to respecting human rights, and upholding justice, equality and non-discrimination.


7 thoughts on “Orang Asli Development: A New Starting Point Needed

  1. Time to ask frankly whether the orang asli do really need any kind of development. If so, what developments they need? Or is it that they are just tools for politicians and businessmen respective agenda.

    • The issue has gone beyond politics for resolution.

      The small number of top Orang Asli leaders such as Ramli Noor are fully Malay and Muslim and have discarded their OA ancestry and roots. They have been beneficiaries of the allocations to the community. Some have participated in abuse and hijacking of the funds intended for the community – a problem which will continue even with the Pakatan government.

      It has to be left to the OA younger generation to fight and correct this.

  2. The key to indigenous population is simply manual jobs with good wages, education, their private property rights and health care. It simply starts with jobs with high wages they can participate which runs counter to market forces and modern industries given their skills, education and culture.

    Fact is they need govt jobs disproportionately at the expense of Malays. In other words, the NEP is guilty of their plight. That has always been their problem.
    bigjoe99, benign neglect.–Din Merican.

  3. The marginalisation and dispossession of the Orang Asli’s land started hundreds of years ago and continuing shamelessly until today.

    History has shown violent conflicts and wars are common among the various Malay groups eg. Javanese, Bugis, Batak dll. for the Orang Asli land for resources and wealth…….then orang puteh took over the exploitation of their land and resources.

    With the Orang Asli gone in the near future, the Malay/Muslim/Bumiputra could proclaim themselves as the first people to migrate to this land and thereby, proclaim themselves as ‘ orang asli ‘.

    Hati busuk niat jahat!

  4. //A declaration to this effect would be a significant first for Malaysia in the ASEAN Community while we would be the second nation after Taiwan in Asia to provide such a political initiative.

    Just wanted to suggest many of the natives in Taiwan speak Malay, in that they shared the usage of words like Makan and Minum. To be fair, Taiwan’s action has an awareness being Taiwanese is different from being “Mainlander” Chinese. I certainly a few more Melayu noticed that. I do think some do. I hiked the mountain behind Taipei 101 last December. I saw two Malaysian gadis bertudung hiking on their own. How can they not notice this? Probably they do. But, many would just refuse to see that. There could be a different Malaysia that the world would love to embrace. Wake up lah.. Tun Dr, wake up lah Datuk Seri! Speaking of which, it was cool to see our previous Queen cook with Martin Yan on PBS earlier the week. But, at the same time, I must say Malaysia must spend more research money on nutritional science. I love Malaysian food. But, my office life in front of a computer all day just couldn’t handle it. I suspect it is the same for many Melayu reading this blog. Nutritional science is important also. Right, Dr Phua?

  5. “…..an official expression would demonstrate the nation’s commitment to respecting human rights, and upholding justice, equality and non-discrimination ‘.

    You need to properly look into the Malays’ history and custom or ‘ adat ‘ and the enormous oppression and cruelty inflicted on the Orang Asli and, to a lesser extent, other ordinary Malays.

    Orang Asli are hunted down by some Malays to be made slaves…….it is part of their custom or ‘ adat ‘ and it gives them status to own as many slaves as possible – the more slaves they owned, the higher is their status in their community…..until the arrival of British.

    It was mainly physical abuse at that time. But now with narrow, divisive and damaging politics of race and religion for power at all cost, the ordinary Malay/Muslim are screwed emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

    This is one of the reasons most Malay/Muslim ‘ leaders ‘ and their supporters oppose ICRED………slavery is a custom or ‘ adat ‘ at that time and now they repackaged it as ‘ ketuanan ‘.

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