Orang Asli call for recognition of their Ancestral Land

By Augustine Anthony & Bah Tony William Hunt

On 04.12.2009 it was reported in the New Straits Times that some 19,990 Orang Asli families will receive freehold land titles. 

It would generally be expected that the Orang Asli communities will be elated with this announcement but strangely far from being overjoyed with this news, the Orang Asli communities are unhappy and restless.

They ask whether the “receiving” of freehold land titles from the government would mean that they are seen as abandoning their struggle in calling for the government to formally recognize their ancestral lands which they had occupied for generations.

Other concerns of these communities with this government initiative includes the likely breakdown of their traditional communal lifestyle where the land hereon will be treated as individual ownership as opposed to the long entrenched communal ownership  practised by them.

The implementation of this government initiative is also expected to impose serious financial burden on the Orang Asli communities as the hidden costs in securing titles for individual ownership of land may not be within the contemplation of these communities.

We recently met up with representatives, including women, of many Orang Asli communities from around the Batang Padang district who have gathered to discuss this “historic” government initiative and  was surprised that everyone who spoke, voiced out their disapproval without any hesitation.

The Orang Asli communities have legitimate reasons for showing their dissatisfaction, among others;

Titling the land based on the acreages proposed (2-6 acres) means reduction of Orang Asli traditional land area. The representatives we met feel that this will restrict Orang Asli access to their traditional land in order to hunt, fish, collect resources etc. They added that it could also result in loss of areas which have religious and historical significance to their communities.

Many of the representatives pointed out that such restriction is in fact already happening. In some places in the Batang Padang district, the Forestry Department has put up warning signs, signaling against Orang Asli opening up lands; seemingly oblivious to the fact that these communities have been occupying these land/areas well before the enactment of the National Forestry Act 1984. 
The Orang Asli also see the limiting of their land to the acreages proposed as unjust as it would create the possibilities that those owning more than the threshold area will lose their land. Many fear that this may cause many upheavals in their communities. 
Save for some acceptable conditions and circumstances in which the granting of individual land titles may not alter significantly their communal lifestyles, the Orang Asli are calling for the recognition of their lands to be effected through gazetting of their entire ancestral lands as reserves so that they can continue their communal lifestyles and traditions.

[Bah Tony Williams-Hunt is the former President of Persatuan Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (POASM)]

  1. #1 by dagen on Tuesday, 2 February 2010 - 1:29 pm

    May 13 round 1, umno (tuan) vs chinese.
    May 13 round 2, umno (cowheads) vs indians
    May 13 round 3, umno (allah) vs catholics/christians.
    May 13 round 4 (coming soon?), umno (the almighty) vs orang asli.

    This has to stop!

  2. #2 by frankyapp on Tuesday, 2 February 2010 - 4:50 pm

    Why in the first place the orang asli are treated like dirt,swept aside under the carpet by Umno/Bn regime ?. I think it still is.This tribe is the origin of this land.Priority should have given to them in term of education,health and housing. UMNO/BN should be held responsible for any short comming of this tribe. UMNO/BN should first apolozise to the orang asli like what the Australian prime minister did to the oborigine . More over UMNO/BN should give back whatever they have robbed from the orang asli and also must give what is due to the orang asli as soon as possible. I hope the orang asli’s predicament would serve as an eye opener to our Sabah and Sarawak natives and they should serve notice to UMNO/BN that they are the oborigines and that equal treatment and rights must be accorded to them irrespective of colour and religion. I appeal to leaders of PBS,UPKO,SUPP and PRS to fight for your people’s interest now ,cause if you don’t,you and your children and your children’s children and your very own tribes would be devastated in the near future.

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