Orang Asli elders in Perak bent on rejecting BN

Tok Batin Gahrai Kadek, 77, the most senior Semai tribe advisor for Tok Batins in Malaysia, explains why the Semai tribe is rejecting BN during GE14

TANJUNG MALIM: The Orang Asli community in Perak is on a mission to vote out the Barisan Nasional (BN) government, citing its negligence and the destruction of ancestral land.

Tok Batin Gahrai Kadek, 77, the most senior Semai tribe advisor for Tok Batins in Malaysia, told FMT he had instructed the entire tribe to reject BN for its encroachment on Orang Asli ancestral land.

“The Orang Asli have made peace with living deep in the jungle, not having any economic opportunities, eating tapioca three times a day despite yearning for a plate of rice, and not having any electricity or water.

“What we will not accept is the encroachment on our land, which is protected by customary common law rights, on our ancestral graves, the river in which we swim and fish and from which we drink, and the jungle in which we plant tapioca, yam and bananas to eat.”

The leader from Kampung Gesau Pos Slim, Slim River, said the government had come onto Orang Asli land and set up palm oil estates, hydro power plants, residential areas and even resorts by the rivers.

“We have tolerated so much over 60 years, but we will not stand for them seizing our forefathers’ land and destroying our rivers. We were already marginalised before they did all that,” he added.

Kampung Gesau Pos Slim is only one of the many villages located deep in the jungles of Slim River and Behrang.

Kampung Tibang advisor Tok Puit Nai.

Kampung Tibang advisor Tok Puit Nai, 78, said the biggest worry for his villagers was that their land was not gazetted. He said they feared that those who had encroached on the land close to their village might take away their homes next.

He also raised concerns about the hydro power plant developed by Perak Hydro Renewable Energy Corporation Sdn Bhd (PHREC) along a river next to the village.

He said the river was now contaminated and no longer suitable to fish or bathe in.

Kampung Keding chief Yuk Lupa.

Kampung Keding chief Yuk Lupa, 60, said it had taken the BN government 60 years to build roads to his village.

“This isn’t just a request from us now. It was a request from our grandparents’ time, and they have finally given us a road.”

He said there had been threats that their land would be taken away from them, which had made them lose their faith in the government.

“I do not want to vote come election day,” he told FMT.

Prima from Kampung Pos Tenau.

Prima, 32, a villager from Kampung Pos Tenau, had a PKR flag draped across his shoulders as he spoke to FMT.

“Because of the BN government, I had to eat tapioca my whole life. Their sweet promises turn out not sweet after all.

“I am voting for PKR, and I call on Tun Mahathir to help us while respecting the rights of the Orang Asli,” he said.

There are nearly 1,600 people living in Kampung Tenau alone.

Villagers whom FMT met said they were forced to eat only tapioca as they had no economic opportunities.

They said the encroachment on Orang Asli land had forced them deeper into the forest. This, combined with their inability to earn a livelihood, makes it almost impossible for them to move to towns as they do not have the means to do so.

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