By Joachim Ng
Quite possibly, many senior officials of the State Government are not aware that the Orang Asli communities of Perak have legitimate title to their ancestral lands. There are several ways to obtain a land title — one is by legally binding contract between the seller and purchaser, and another is an ancient bond forged between your ancestors and Mother Nature.
Although the Menteri Besar has clarified that the term “ancestral lands” does not exist in the state constitution, the Orang Asli’s impoverished condition implies that this ancient bond has no validity. Well, the bond with nature has not been important for civilised societies. But now that we are facing climate change, the Orang Asli’s place in national life and role in climate preservation should be a highlight of the Merdeka celebration.
The Orang Asli — Malaysia’s first netizens and it’s only human occupants for more than 20,000 years — remain sidelined. If you have occasion to address secondary school pupils, ask them to name the principal ethnic groups in Malaysia. Their recital may sound correct, except that the Orang Asli tribes are usually not mentioned.
Our struggle to reverse climate change is doomed to fail so long as we continue to marginalise the Orang Asli whose faith in nature symbolises humanity’s once-strong connection with the earth. This is a bond with nature that civilisation severed. A strong indication of this severance is that all deeply civilised religious folks other than yogis view God as hovering beyond nature. In contrast, Asli spiritual elders view God as abiding within nature.
Latest published statistics of religious affiliations show the following: Muslims 61.3%; Buddhists 19.8%; Christians 9.2%; Hindus 6.3%; Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 1.3%; others 0.4%. Total 98.3%. The Orang Asli’s faith in nature — the Original Faith of humanity — is not mentioned. Instead, missionaries are ramping up their efforts to convert the Orang Asli.
In the Orang Asli faith, God is always linked to nature. Living in sync with nature’s circular waste-free patterns, Asli folks are role models of eco-living and their ingrained knowledge of natural forces should be brought to the front rather than ignored. Equally significant is the deepset connection that the worldwide indigenous faith in nature has with all civilisational religions. Our modern religions didn’t pop into existence like stardust from heaven; their roots lie deep and if you read the scriptures carefully you will find a link to the indigenous faith.
To re-discover natural living and reverse climate change, we need a trip back to the Original Faith and back to finding God in nature.