Monday, October 19, 2015

The Orang Asli and the irony of being a true Bumiputra

The Orang Asli and the irony of being a true Bumiputra 

 by Mariam Mokhtar
OUTSPOKEN: The original and legitimate Bumiputras are the Orang Asli, but they are also the most oppressed. The tragedy is that their oppressors are the government of Malaysia. 
The state has denied the Orang Asli many of their rights, and in some cases bought-off the village headman, to implement their rules. Government failure to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Orang Asli, is often blamed on the Orang Asli themselves, for "rejecting development". This is utter codswallop!
In the second quarter of 20th Century Malaya, the British understood the importance of the Orang Asli in nation building, especially in countering the communist insurgency. 
Since independence, the effort of improving the lives of the Orang Asli, in terms of health, education and poverty, has developed at a snail's pace, when compared to the race to Islamicise whole communities of Orang Asli. Very little has changed since 1957. In 21st Century Malaysia, the government values the Orang Asli communities only as a political pawn.
The Orang Asli Development Department (JAKOA) administers the welfare of the 150,000 Orang Asli, which is only 0.5% of the population of Malaysia. Despite the millions of ringgits poured into JAKOA, the Orang Asli remain among the poorest, most illiterate, and most oppressed people. 
Our leaders lack the political will to improve the living conditions of the Orang Asli. What has this funding been spent on? Apparently, the Director-General (DG) of JAKOA has the final say in Orang Asli affairs, and the Orang Asli is not allowed a look-in.
Elsewhere in Malaysia, Bumiputras are able to take full advantage of the NEP, but this does not seem to be the case with the Orang Asli. Why is this community marginalised? Former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad once alleged that the Orang Asli cannot have more rights than the Malays, despite being the original natives. 
How many Orang Asli work in JAKOA? Their expertise and knowledge could be tapped, to advise on Orang Asli government policy? Is the DG or any of his senior advisers, an Orang Asli? After the tragedy of the SK Pos Tohoi, the government will probably react and we will probably see the first admission of Orang Asli into the ranks of JAKOA.
It is believed that 81% of the Orang Asli live below the official poverty line (the national average was 5%). In a study conducted around five years ago, using data from 1997, from the Department of Statistics, only 48% of Orang Asli had access to tap water and 48% of Orang Asli had proper toilets (the national average was 97%).
The study also showed that 49% of the Orang Asli are illiterate, 39% of the Orang Asli are educated up to primary school level, 62% drop out of school, while 94% of the Orang Asli leave school after the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM). Suhakam (the human rights NGO) alleged that the government stopped the provision of primary schools in Orang Asli villages because they were not economically viable. 
One of the major issues is the provision of adequate health care for the Orang Asli. Malnutrition is endemic and infant mortality rates are at least three times the national average. Common diseases are TB, malaria, cholera and typhoid. The life span of Orang Asli men and women is lower than the national average. 
In 2010, a doctor attached to JAKOA, made serious allegations about malpractice, misappropriation of resources, and other serious abuses in the JAKOA hospital in Gombak. Among the allegations was that milk powder, meant for Orang Asli babies, was subdivided so that mothers were not getting the full entitlement, thus contributing to the malnourishment of the community.
Land ownership problems are a serious matter. Despite government recognition of Orang Asli land, no land titles have been issued. The state appears to allow companies to mine or log in the forest reserve, but the Orang Asli are denied their rights to earn a living in their ancestral land. Orang Asli families are regularly evicted from forest reserves, families are made homeless and the blame is placed on the Orang Asli. The Orang Asli are relocated to areas, which are convenient for the government to monitor. Resettlement camps are miles away from the forest, which is their source of income. Often, the new homes, are built on land which is infertile and far from rivers. 
The practice of converting Orang Asli continues, despite the Constitution granting freedom of religion for all its citizens. Orang Asli parents have complained that their children are surreptitiously being converted, in the school hostels. In 2006, the state of Kelantan offered RM10,000 to each Muslim preacher, who marries an Orang Asli woman and converts her. The preacher would also be entitled to free accommodation, a four-wheel-drive vehicle and a fixed monthly allowance of RM1,000.
The Orang Asli are treated with utter disregard and contempt. They receive few benefits under the NEP, their rights are continually being denied, but the only thing that appears to be successfully implemented, is the creeping Islamicisation of their community. Such an irony for the true Bumiputras of the nation. 
When will such EVIL end, the original and legitimate Bumiputras are treated like outcasts, beggars. When they are the original and legitimate Bumiputras. 
Let God deal with such evil, greedy people like in Sarawak - Taib & family and cronies; in W. Malaysia - Umno/BN; in Kelantan - PAS; in Sabah – Umno and local govt.

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