by Gan Pei Ling, 27 Jan 2018 © The Malaysian Insight
ORANG Asli still lack recognition for their customary land rights and access to basic infrastructure such as electricity, roads and water till today, representatives said at the Pakatan Harapan convention in Pahang today.
“We know the Malaysian government can rob our land in future. We are afraid our children may not have homes to take shelter in and lands to feed themselves,” said Singgol Oleh, 43, from Kampung Tual, Pos Sinderut, Kuala Lipis.
“We are afraid future generations of Semai people will be forgotten because of the lost of our ancestral land. This has to change.”
He told the 200-odd audience that their ancestral lands around Cameron Highlands have been gazetted as permanent forest reserve.
“This means that the land belongs to the Malaysian government. It also means we have lost our customary land, and our identity as natives is threatened,” he said.
Pos Sinderut is home to some 14 Orang Asli villages with about 1,200 people.
Singgol said he hopes a new government will return the Orang Asli their customary land.
Zainal Kaptar, 36, from another village in Pos Sinderut, said the lack of electricity supply in makes it difficult for their children to study at night.
“We often hear that Malaysia is becoming an advanced country, with skyscrapers, luxury hotels, highways… do you know that a lot of us still live without electricity?” said Zainal.
He added that when it rains, some villages are totally cut off from the outside world as the roads are destroyed by landslides.
“There is a stark difference between the infrastructure given to the Orang Asli compared to other races. Why does this difference exist? Aren’t we Malaysians too?” said Zainal.
Norhadi Nordin, 25, also from Pos Sinderut said many Orang Asli children want to further their studies but lack the opportunity.
“There is only one primary school in Pos Sinderut. Some pupils still don’t know how to read, write or calculate properly after six years of education.
“Whose fault is it? Whose responsibility is it to teach the children in schools? Our village chiefs have spoken to the school a few times but our appeals fell on deaf ears,” he told The Malaysian Insight at the side of the convention.
Norhadi added that it is still difficult for Orang Asli youth to get a place in vocational colleges.
“We hope the future Malaysian government can take education for Orang Asli seriously,” he said.