Tag Archives: Semai Orang Asli

Orang Asli in Perak

Justice for the Innocents


by Fathol Zaman Bukhari

Orang Asli in PerakIt may not be the landmark case of the year but the decision by the Tapah magistrate court to acquit and discharge four Orang Asli over the shooting of a tiger in Bukit Tapah Forest Reserve in 2010 was of significance to the Semai community. The four, Yok Mat Bah Chong, 48, Yok Rayau Yok Senian, 50, Yok Kalong Bah Papee, 51, and Hassan Bah Ong, 33, were charged under Section 64A of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Amended 1976 and 1988) which carries a fine of RM15,000 or a five-year jail sentence or both.

The incident took place in the forest reserve near Sungkai on February 4, 2010. According to Yok Mat, they shot the tiger to save their friend, Yok Meneh Yok Din, who was attacked by the animal while out foraging in the forest. The prosecution, adduced Magistrate Fairuz Adiba Ismail, had failed to prove a prima facie case against the four who hailed from different villages in Sungkai.

Based on a 2000 census, the Orang Asli population in Peninsular Malaysia stands at approximately 150,000 or 0.5 per cent of the overall population of the country. They are being divided into three groups, namely Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay. The Senoi forms the largest grouping with nearly 55 per cent of the total number. Senoi is concentrated in central peninsula, of which the Semai is the majority with nearly 35,000.

The Semai is found mostly in areas around Sungai Siput in the north to Tanjung Malim in the south. There is also a sizeable population in the Tapah and Cameron Highlands regions. A vital link during the Malayan Emergency (1948 to 1960), they were being courted by both the Communist insurgents and the authorities. The establishment of security posts in the Semai heartland of Cameron Highlands and areas bordering Perak and Kelantan bore testimony to this statement.

During my years in the army I had the opportunity to interact with these indigenous people in Post Brooke, Post Telanok and Post Poi. Their naivety and, to a large extent, simplicity are reasons why they have been taken advantage of by the unscrupulous among us. The pillage, unfortunately, continues to this day. For reasons of political expedience, the Orang Asli community has come under intense public scrutiny since the general election of 2008.

Orang Asli in PerakLegislations related to Orang Asli are the National Land Code 1965, Land Conservation Act 1960, Wildlife Protection Act 1972 (Amended 1976 and 1988), National Parks Act 1980 (Amendment 1983), and most importantly the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954. The Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 provides for the setting up and establishment of the Orang Asli Reserve Land. It also includes the power accorded to the Director-General of the Jabatan Hal Ehwal Orang Asli to order Orang Asli out of such reserved land at its discretion, and award compensation to affected people. A landmark case in 2002 was the Sagong Tasi vs. Government of Selangor. It concerned the state using its powers under the 1954 Act to evict Orang Asli from gazetted Orang Asli Reserve Land. The High Court ruled in favour of Sagong Tasi, who represented the Orang Asli, and was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Although the Tapah court decision on Thursday, October 11 may not be in the same league as the Sagong Tasi case, its significance can never be dismissed. It is, after all, a vindication of sorts for a community long oppressed by the very people entrusted to care for them. It is poetic justice for the four who were doing what their forefathers had been doing before them – eking out a living by foraging in the jungles. The vast jungle tracts, which are slowly but surely shrinking due to human encroachments, are fair game for the powerful and the moneyed, on one side, and the weak and the poor, on the other. It is akin to the confrontation between the Red Indians and the white settlers in 19th century USA.

The fact that the quartet was defended by the likeable legal team of Augustine Anthony and Amani William Hunt Abdullah, better known as Bah Tony, a part Semai, lends credence to its importance. Augustine had argued that there had been contradictions in the evidence produced in court. The shotgun, belonging to a Rela personnel, referred to in the ballistic report was different from the one seized from the accused. A Veterinary Services Department officer had told the court that she was the one who performed the autopsy on the dead tiger but an earlier report said that a Wildlife Department officer did the examination. The Rela officer who testified on behalf of the prosecution could not even differentiate one shotgun from another.

“The contradictions were simply too glaring for a conviction,” said Augustine. “Therefore, the court was justified in dismissing the four.”

The victory may be long overdue but more problems are in the offing. The latest being the slapping of Orang Asli students by a Malay teacher for failing to recite the doa during school assembly.

Preserving Perak’s Heritage

By James Gough

The first ever living heritage exhibition showcasing the traditional arts and crafts and cultures from throughout the state was held with much fanfare and colour.

Dato Hamidah (2nd from left) greeted by dancing Lions on arrival. On her right is Kinta Heritage Director Adib Vincent Tung

Themed the “1 Malaysia, Perak Lost Heritage” the exhibition was held at the Garden Villa, 5 Jalan Raja Dr Nazrin Shah until December 5. It was co-organised by the Kinta Heritage Group and the State government with the purpose of creating awareness of cultures and traditions around us.

Silat demonstration

Perak Tourism Chairman, Dato’ Hamidah Osman, who officiated at the opening of the exhibition was greeted by dancing lions upon her arrival followed with a silat exhibition.

Kinta Heritage Director, Adib Vincent Tung who welcomed Hamidah, was dressed in the traditional Malay costume complete with Sampin and matching headgear, setting the mood for the exhibition. Also present on the morning was Malaysia’s favorite cartoonist Dato’ Mohammad Nor Khalid more endearingly known as Lat.

Hamidah, in her address praised the organizers for initiating this exhibition saying that “we should preserve our valuable heritage and culture for the next generation and repeating her often mentioned slogan, “once our heritage is gone, it is gone forever’.

The craftsmen demonstrated how to make rattan baskets, wooden clogs, the Malay Keris, a lions head or head gear from palm leaves.

Semai song and dance

Semai Orang Asli from Ulu Geroh performed their melodic song and dance and the Punjabi community the lively Bhangra dance.

All the cultures were available for viewing at one location. The week long exhibition recorded over 1,200 visitors.

The week long exhibition
recorded over 1200 visitors.
Blood Donation Drive: The Gift of Life on Saturday Dec 18 at the lobby of Hospital Heritage
Fatimah from 9.00 a.m. to 12 p.m. The blood donation drive is in collaboration with
Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun. Donors will receive a free general blood screening
(M50) by Gribbles Pathology (lipid, renal, glucose and urine tests).
PSPA Singers Choral Presentation on ‘A Message of Love and Inspiration’ on
Sunday Dec 19 at 8 p.m. at YMCA Ipoh. Admission is free. Donations collected
at this second charity performance will go to the Orang Asli Community. Contact
YMCA (Michael Thong or Grace): 05-2540809 or PSPA (Sara): 05-5487814.
Wawasan Open University Information Day at its Ipoh regional office on Sunday,
Dec 19 (10.30 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Counselling for those wishing to enrol. A 50 per
cent waiver on processing fee and gifts for those registering on this day. Call: 05-
Tan Sri Lee Loy Seng Chess Championship 2010 – Grand Final on Dec 19 at
Dewan MSN, Majlis Sukan Negeri Perak. Contact: En Yunus Sharif 013-3908129.
Details at PICA website: http://perakchess.blogspot.com.
Perak Malayalee Association (PMA) Family Day & Sports Carnival on Sunday
Dec 19 from 8.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. at Sekolah Menengah Tarcisian Convent, Jalan
Abdul Manap, Lim Garden, Ipoh. Call: 012-5381939 (K. Letchimanan) or 012-
5279650 (K.P. Thatatean).
Olympia College ‘Open Day’ on Tuesday Dec 21 from 10.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. at
its premises: 18 Jln C.M. Yusuff, Ipoh. Also a talk on “Know Your Future Career” at
3.00-4.00 p.m. Contact Mr Foong at: 05-2433868 or 017-5341834.
Malam Anugerah Ikon Usahanita Negeri Perak 2010 on Tuesday, Dec 28 at 7.30
p.m. at the Town Hall, Ipoh. Guests-of-Honour: MB Perak, Dato’ Seri Dr Zambry
Abdul Kadir and wife. Call: Datin Ruby 012-8331801, Pn Maznah 016-5937295 or
Pn Bibi 017-5858477.
Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Perak – ‘Introduction to Bird-Watching’ Course
on Jan 9 at YMCA Ipoh & Kinta Nature Park. RM20 per pax includes classroom
lectures and practical field trip to Kinta Nature Park.
Contact: Chan Kai Soon 012-531 5670, chankaisoon@hotmail.com or log on: www.
By James Gough

Orang Asli Activist is Admitted to the Bar

Hunt with his wife and peers

Amani Williams-Hunt bin Abdullah was accepted as an Advocate and Solicitor to the High Court of Malaya recently.

Williams-Hunt, 57, a Semai Orang Asli from Tapah and fondly known as Bah Tony amongst the Orang Asli communities throughout the country, is very active in Orang Asli (OA) advocacy and was President of Persatuan Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia from 1987 to 1991.

Bah Tony who worked as a Banker for 26 years, resigned his job in 2006 to do his Certificate in Legal Practice. He began studying law part time since 1999 saying that “becoming a lawyer enabled him to seek justice and help for his community”.

Hunt with his wife Khatimatul Huzna

Currently he is a Member of the National Advisory Council for the Development of the Orang Asli Community a think-tank established under the Ministry of Rural and Regional Development and also a Committee Member for Orang Asli Rights under the Malaysian Bar Council.

Williams-Hunt is married to Puan Khatimatul Husna and has 6 children, 2 boys and 4 girls from ages 10 till 30.