A pro-active move by the Pakatan-led Selangor government will see the return of NCR lands to the Orang Asli community.
State exco Elizabeth Wong said that under the Pakatan-led Selangor government, piped water, electricity as well as land security for the much-exploited Orang Asli community are being given priority.
Wong took a swipe at the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) state government for marginalising the Orang Asli in Selangor and elsewhere for over 50 years.
She said that within just three-and-a-half years of Pakatan rule, the Selangor government has managed to begin gazetting five areas as Orang Asli reserves and was now finding ways to give them back lands grabbed from them for development.
Wong also thanked Sabah-based Pacos Trust (Pacos) for its contribution to the Selangor
government in its efforts to raise the living condition of Orang Asli community in the state.
She said Pacos has helped the state government train Orang Asli youths in Selangor to conduct surveys to map their reserves using the Global Positioning System.
Pacos is a community-based voluntary organisation that helps to raise the quality of life of indigenous communities.
“Pacos came to Selangor to help us in the effort,” she said at a forum on “Land and Customary Land – Law, Policy and Challenges” organised by Sabah PKR here recently.
She praised Pacos for also helping the Selangor government provide mini-hydro-electricity supply to the Orang Asli villages.
She said these were among the various initiatives undertaken by the state government to enable the Orang Asli to share the fruits of development.
Wong, the Selangor State Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment Committee chairman and Lanjan (PKR) assemblywoman, said a few weeks after Pakatan won Selangor in the March 2008 general election, they held a meeting to discuss the case of Sagong Tasi, the landmark Orang Asli customary land case.
Violation of rights
When Pakatan took over the state government, the case had gone to the Federal Court for a re-appeal by the previous the BN-led state government, after losing twice before that.
Wong said the case involved land belonging to the Orang Asli in Selangor which had been taken away to make way for the construction of a highway to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Recounting the villagers’ ordeal, she said their village, Kampung Orang Asli Bukit Tampoi, was situated in the middle of the proposed road and the villagers had been given a 14-day eviction notice without any promise of compensation.
The BN-led government mobilised the police, Rela, and Federal Reserve Unit personnel to clear the area, including the fruit trees as well as houses built by the Orang Asli, she said.
“The affected Orang Asli took their case to the High Court in 1997. No one expected them to win but they won,” she said.
Then, she said, the BN government fought back by submitting an appeal to the Appeals Court in 2005 and the Orang Asli won again.
“The BN-led government then submitted an appeal to the Federal Court.
“But because Pakatan captured Selangor, a few weeks later we held a meeting and decided to make a stand by postponing the government’s case at the Federal Court,” she said.
“We wanted to study the case where the rights of Orang Asli appeared to have been violated and we wanted to go through all the data.
“Later, we informed the Federal Court that the Selangor government did not want to continue with the case and so it collapsed,” Wong said.
She said the federal government-appointed highway developer was then forced to pay compensation to the affected Orang Asli.
“The money may be small but what is important is that we forced the federal government to recognise the Orang Asli rights,” she said.
No BN move to gazette land
Howver, Wong said that improving the living conditions of the Orang Asli was not easy as there were still a lot of obstacles.
“Many Orang Asli lands in Selangor have been given to developers and some of them have been developed into residential areas,” she said.
“For example my constituency, Bukit Lanjan, was originally an Orang Asli village but is now like a city and there are no more Orang Asli villages.
“This happened about 20 years ago and there is no way we can reverse it. But there are several other cases where the developers have yet to start work and it is these that we are now striving to solve,” she said.
She said another obstacle was the Orang Asli Affairs Department which has now been changed to the Orang Asli Development Department.
The department, she said, has everything including the map showing where the Orang Asli land areas were, but did nothing to have these lands gazetted as Orang Asli villages by the state government.
Wong said the Orang Asli Action Body set up by the state government was looking into Orang Asli land-related cases and was now mapping all the Orang Asli villges in Selangor.
“It’s not an easy task as it requires a lot of ground work and we have managed to complete the mapping for four Orang Asli villages and they will be gazetted as such,” she said.
In Kampung Jambu, near Sepang, which was proposed for development under the BN government “we looked at the approval letter and told them (the developers) that the Orang Asli community refused to move out.
“We studied it, we talked to the villagers, and finally in February this year we decided to return the premium to the developer and maintain the village for the Orang Asli… this village too is expected to be gazetted as an Orang Asli reserve,” she said.
Wong said that it was Pakatan policy in Selangor to gazette all Orang Asli land as reserves and grant the community land titles.
“This is very important because without a gazetted land reserve and land titles, a developer or any big company can come in anytime and grab the land and evict the villagers,” she said.
According to Wong, the Selangor government was drawing up comprehensive long-term assistance plans for the Orang Asli in the state.
“In 10 or 20 years’ time, the Orang Asli community in Selangor will be much better off as their rights including on their land are guaranteed by law,” she said.
Wong said that the federal government has done little to improve the welfare of the Orang Asli and it was the state government which has to care for them.
“We do not receive any funding from the federal government, but we have gone to all the villages to check on their conditions… I have submitted a report to the Menteri Besar pointing out that we do not have any excuse not to help these villagers.
“Among the projects we have implemented are providing electricity supply to the Orang Asli villages,” she said.
“This project cost us only RM15,000 and we were able to supply electricity to 25 houses,” she said, adding that it was much cheaper than what Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) had offered.
“When the TNB knew about the project, it said it could provide electricity to the villages at a cost of RM3 million. The projects we completed required only small funding.”
The Selangor government has also introduced a programme to recognise Orang Asli chiefs.
“There are programmes for Chinese and Malay village chiefs, but no programme that recognises the Orang Asli chief.
“The recognition is for all village chiefs, regardless of whether they are Pakatan members or not… we give RM300 allowance starting from this year,” she said.
The state government will also grant RM10,000 to all the Orang Asli villages through their respective JKKKs (Village Security and Development Committees) to carry out village
“An insurance scheme has also been started for all village chiefs,” Wong said.
“The Orang Asli in Selangor are among the recipients of several schemes introduced by the state government, like the Mesra Usia Emas scheme for those 60 years and above that provides them assistance and to their respective families should anything untoward happen to them.”
All Orang Asli children born in Selangor will also get a special savings account called Tabung Tawak opened by the state government “where we guarantee that when the child reaches 18, the Selangor government will invest or inject into his or her savings not less than RM1,000.
“When he or she enrols in a university, we will directly give RM1,000 for the first year to enable them to buy new clothings and other necessities,” Wong said.
“This is not a fairy tale but has already been proven in Selangor. If Pakatan wins in Sabah, all the issues connected to native customary right (NCR) lands will also be solved by the new state government,” she said.