Umno wiping us out, claim Orang Asli

KOTA BARU: The Orang Asli community in the peninsula are fighting back. After more than 50 years of what they described as suppression, they are demanding that they be seen, heard and acknowledged.

Said Ramly Lugan, from the Pahang Orang Asli community: “We have been ignored. Umno doesn't want us to exist.

"In the peninsula, Umno says our population is 150,000. That was the figure 10 years ago. The records have shown no change. We are still 150,000.

"Our population has not even increased one percent. Don't you think it is strange?
"This is Umno's strategy. It is trying to say that the [population of the] Orang Asli is dropping. But this is untrue.

"Umno wants to wipe us out, it's ethnic cleansing," he told FMT on the sideline of the PKR's sixth national convention, which ended yesterday.

He said the community “doesn’t even exist in government forms”.
“Umno has been 'Islamising' our race. I do not blame our people for embracing Islam. But do not force or delude us.

“For example, in every government form, there is a category for Malay, Chinese and Indian. There is none for Orang Asli. They call us 'lain-lain'.
“If we convert to Islam, then we become Malay.

“The more Malays there are, the fewer our Orang Asli population. We feel all this is ethnic cleansing,” he said.

'Government stealing our land'
Lugan was part of a contingent of Orang Asli who were invited as delegates to the PKR convention here.
It was a historic moment for the Orang Asli as no political party in the past had invited them to participate in nation building.
The three-day convention was an eye-opener for this community which has benefited the least from the country’s rapid development.

“We have met many people here and heard many views. It was good for us,” Lugan said, adding that the community will be organising its first convention in June.

“We hope to gather 5,000 natives from all over Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak.
“The convention will be held in Pekan, Pahang. We chose Pekan because we want Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to hear our cry.

"We want him to know that we have lived like slaves and refugees for 50 years. We want out life and land back,” he said.
Lugan was referring to land being repossessed by the state and federal governments for logging projects and smallholdings.

“There is a lot of confusion here... Umno tells us the land we have been cultivating since our great grandfathers’ time is not ours.
“The party says it belong to the Jabatan Perhilitan [Department of Wildlife and National Park]. I don’t understand this.

“I want to ask the government: if it is willing to eliminate the forest for timber, why can’t it let us cultivate our plots?”Lugan described the government’s move of taking away their land as “stealing”.
“The government said Tanam Semula Kelompok (commercial replanting) project will help us, but I don’t know how,” he said.
“The Department of Orang Asli Affairs gives us only RM1,000 a year. How can we live on that meagre sum?
“The government steals our land, removes our forest, and leaves us with no house, water, road or electricity. We have nothing…we have no education.
“In Rompin, there is an Orang Asli village called Kampung Sampah because it is a waste disposal site,” added Lugan.

“The kampung people dig through the waste looking for scrap iron to sell. Because this is a waste disposal site, the land is not fertile for crops.
‘But then who cares… we don’t exist!”
31/05/10

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