Malaysia: Orang Asli feel brunt of project


    GUA MUSANG: The tranquil life in the jungle has now turned into an endless nightmare for 63-year old Orang Asli, Alang Terawas.His people of the Teminar community, who reside in the Seng Sang village here, once lived peacefully by utilising the resources provided by nature around them. But not anymore. Sungai Belatop, the river next to the village, has become muddy while the jungle, where they used to hunt and collect forest produce, has become barren.”This village is the nearest to Lojing and the river flowing from the mountain is the main source of water for residents here.

    “But now, the river is becoming more polluted because of the uncontrolled agricultural activities,” said Alang, who lives in the village with other 50 families. Since 1995, the Kelantan government had allowed several companies to clear the surrounding area to grow vegetables on land considered as Orang Asli customary land.The river started to become polluted and the community had to depend on air tandak, or water from the hills nearby. If the agricultural activities were not controlled, Alang said he feared that the springs nearby would also suffer the same fate as the river.

    “Only this water is left for us to drink. Can you imagine if this water, too, is polluted?” We cannot go hunting any more. We also cannot catch the fish. “What are we going to eat? Please have pity on us.” Alang said the villagers had to venture further into other forests to look for forest produce, such as bamboo and rattan, but their income would be down to just about RM50 per month.

    He said he was thankful that the Federal Government, through the Orang Asli Affairs Department, had helped by building houses. “They built tandak (pond) in the clean water area and distributed water through pipes to our village. “They also built a community centre and new houses for us,” he said, adding that the state government did not seemed to be concerned about their welfare and problems.To make matters worse, Alang said his people faced another dilemma when the state government refused to grant them their land titles.

    He claimed that sometime ago, the state government had promised to give them the grants to their land and houses, but reneged on this without any apparent reason. “We need the grants to prove that we have the right to live here. Without the grants, it means that houses built in this village can be seized by the state government at any time. Young People Against Corruption (Ombak) president Wan Khairul Ihsan Wan Mohamad said the Department of Environment should be stringent in handling Lojing’s development.

    The Kelantan-based non-governmental organisation believed that all development projects in the area did not have Environmental Impact Assessment reports.

    “The state government is only concerned about making profits without thinking about the consequences to the Orang Asli community.” Bernama

    Sungai Belatop, which the Teminar Orang Asli community relied on for their daily use, has been muddied by the rampant Lojing land clearings nearby