Saturday, October 4, 2008

Where is your hak bumiputra when they need it, UMNO?

The Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia)'s hopes of handing a memorandum to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong were dashed when their procession to the Istana Negara was told to stop by the police. [Malaysiakini, 13/9/08]

September 13 marked the first anniversary of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. The Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) latest cry for justice against the exploitation of their rights left many Malaysians wonder whether the ever so controversial hak istimewa (special rights), fervently preached by UMNO, apply also to the indigenous peoples of the country.

The JOAS is a network of 21 bodies representing various natives tribes of the country. The 120-strong rally led by the organisation's president, Andrian Lasimbang intended to hand a memorandum to the Agong; calling for more community development policies and the restoration of their rights as natives of the land. The march to Istana Negara was subsequently brought to a halt by the police as the gathering. According to the police, the gathering by JOAD was "illegal" as the organisers did not apply for a permit. However, Lasimbang claimed that the gathering was initially allowed to take place.

"We were given assurances in the morning that the march could go on. All we want is to walk to the palace to hand over the memorandum. JOAS has carried out a study comparing the declaration with local policies concerning Orang Asal (Orang Asli). It is sad that the policies don't meet the standards. We Orang Asal have been marginalised for so long," Lasimbang told reporters. [NST, 14/9/08]
A JOAS member, Mark Bujang also said that the seizure of land by the federal government is a direct violation of their rights as natives. According to him, the native land issues are especially important to the Orang Asli as it is their cultural identity. He and the JOAS condemned the federal government's indiscriminate invasion of their ancestral land.

Regarding the matter of ancestral lands, the government recently announced that 12 hydroelectric dams will be built by 2020 to meet the state's future industrialisation needs. How does the statewide construction of dams affect the Orang Asli in Sarawak?

Read Sarawak turning into a hydroelectric capital of the world? for the financial implications of the project.

The Bakun dam, one of the 12 proposed hydroelectric power plants to be built in Sarawak had seen 2,000 natives from 400 families living downstream being forced out of their homes. The State Land and Survey Department had issued eviction notices to the locals and marked their houses for demolition; claiming that the people living there have been illegally occupying state-owned lands. However, Rumah Apan deputy headman Merang Jok said his people were willing to take the state government to court in order to settle the dispute.

"Our ancestors have been living here since 130 years ago. In fact, the Sarawak Museum has a copy of a gazette dated August 1, 1882, describing a visit by a government leader to our settlement here in Bakun. After living here for so long, we are shocked to receive these eviction notices. Now, they (Land and Survey enforcement units) have already started tearing down our premises," he said when interviewed at the ruins of a longhouse block that was torn down. [The Star, 17/7/08]
The government have since offered RM876 million in compensation to families affected by the construction of mega-dam. The Auditor-General's Report in 2007 revealed that there were still a substantial number of Bakun residents who have yet to receive their compensation, even though they have left their homes 10 years ago.

On September 29, the Sarawak state government announced that work on the construction of the second mega-dam in Murum have begun. Yet, the RM3 billion hydroelectric plant has done more damage than good; especially to communities like the Penan.

"For energy needs in Sarawak, we don't need the Murum, because Bakun is more than enough to supply the state's needs. Of course, (much of) this will not go to the really rural areas but will supply industry's needs,'' says Raymond Abin of the Borneo Resource Institute (Brimas). [Malaysiakini, 30/9/08]
''This is not development for the Penan. This is not assisting the Penan. This is killing the Penan. As our old headman said before, better bomb us now than 'kill' us slowly!'' says Weng, a Penan. [Malaysiakini, 30/9/08]
The controversies triggered by the construction of the Bakun and Murum dams are just a part of what constitutes the bigger concern plaguing the indigenous peoples of this country. The encroachment of their ancestral land is a direct threat to the constitutional rights and cultural identity of the Orang Asli.

In a country where race-based politics still decide the seats of powers, Malaysia's Orang Asli do not have the luxury of any substantial political representation. Hence, cries of injustice by the native communities often go unheard or simply silenced by racial disputes between the other much larger ethnic groups of the country.

JAOS's best bet would be UMNO, who also fights for the same bumiputra rights for the Malay community. However, the rulling party in the Barisan Nasional government have been silent over the many years of injustice done towards the Orang Asli.

If UMNO is capable of preaching about bumiputra rights till kingdom comes, where are UMNO leaders now when Malaysia's other bumiputras need them the most?


  1. Anonymous said...

    Long ago, there was a country in Europe that carried out propaganda to brainwash its citizens that they were supreme to others and therefore they had to conquer and rule other countries. And then there was a country in Asia that kept telling its citizens from young that if they want to have the resources in the world, then they must be prepared to fight and rule the other countries. The two countries since then had brought untold misery to the world.
    In our country, those political parties that survive based on race politics will keep on telling the people the importance in protecting their race and religion. They even have programs like the BTN to brainwash the people from young as well as the civil servants about the need to propagate the racial thinking in all fields and their ketuanan towards others. They will tell the people that they will champion the interest of their race above all. Without their protection, the people will not survive in the open. So the people must give them the full support to propagate such ideology. Just like that two dangerous countries, these political parties are doing the same to fortify their political foundation, but in doing so, they are bringing this country to a catastrophic end in the future. Their continuing action to segregate the communities in this country is doing untold damages to the wellbeing of the nation who needs its citizens to be united to meet the global challenges it faces today. Unfortunately these communal political souls only care for their own survival in the present and will never venture out of their propaganda game for the best interest of the nation and its citizens. Divide and rule will be their continuing battle call while the country moves in its peril.