Orang Asli victims of racism and neglect

Andrew Sia

Modified 30 Jun 2019, 10:28 am

COMMENT | We have many examples of racism in Malaysia. But could one of them be against the most 'bumi' of the bumiputera?

The word 'bumiputera' comes from Sanskrit, and means 'sons of the soil.'

Yet ironically, discrimination could be facing the Orang Asli, a Malay term translated as the “original people” of this land.

At a forum in Petaling Jaya recently, five of the panel speakers lamented that there has been discrimination against the Orang Asli, and this had contributed to the recent tragedy where 15 Bateq tribespeople died in Kuala Koh.

The panellists included two academics, a doctor, a lawyer-activist and the director-general of the government department for Orang Asli "development" (Jakoa).

Ivan Tacey, an anthropologist from the University of Exeter who has studied the Bateq tribe for over a decade, described how the community was largely healthy circa 2008, with lush forests all around them.

But by 2014, the forests had been completely logged, the temperature had increased, while soil erosion affected river water supply.

"The forest was cooler, healthier, whereas life in the government resettlement village (of Kuala Koh) was harder.

"After being pushed off their (original) land, iron mining began (nearby)," Tacey told the What Led To Kuala Koh Catastrophe forum..

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