Orang Asli - not how much is
allocated but how much actually reaches them in real terms in concrete
2008 Budget Speech (5)
by Lim Kit Siang
The Budget states that the
government is committed to improving the quality of life of Orang Asli,
allocating RM170 to the Department of Orang Asli Affairs to carry out
numerous programmes and projects.
We should listen to the views of the Orang Asli community, and the
following are some feedback from the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC).
With regard to the financing of Orang Asli development, the issue is not
how much is allocated in the annual budget but how much actually reaches
the Orang Asli in real terms, in concrete benefits.
Non-delivery of benefits
A survey conducted COAC, POASM, YKPM and other NGOs involved with Orang
Asli issues found that subsidies and allocations meant for the Orang Asli
were not delivered to them. This included the education support for
students coming from poor households (which the PM announced last year was
increased from RM30.00 per student per month to RM50.00).
In some districts, the transportation for Orang Asli schoolchildren was
disrupted as the contractors were not paid their fees for months at a
stretch (in Tapah this year, about 250 Orang Asli students had to skip
school when the bus contractors decided to protest the 7-month delay in
payment of their fees by refusing to transport the schoolchildren).
In fact, in yesterday’s NST, in a report on the launching of the K9 school
for the Orang Asli in the DPM’s constituency, the Education Minister
admitted that the Orang Asli are now getting what the Malays got 50 years
Land encroachment and development
Encroachment into Orang Asli traditional lands – a result of
non-recognition of these lands as titled Orang Asli territories – have led
to logging, land-grabbing and outside development (for others).
It is now generally accepted, even by the JHEOA, that there can be no real
development for the Orang Asli if there is no security of tenure.
Thus far, the courts have also accorded the Orang Asli recognition of full
title to their traditional lands. The authorities, however, still choose
to deny the Orang Asli this fundamental right, thereby allowing the
remaining lands of the Orang Asli to be slowly whittled away.
Some of the lands that were approved for gazetting as Orang Asli Reserves
as far back as the 1960s and 1970s were never administratively gazetted.
In fact, some of these areas have now been reclassified as state land or
Malay Reserve Land, or have been given to individuals and corporations –
without the Orang Asli’s knowledge, let alone consent.
And while it is being bandied about that the proposed Orang Asli Land
Policy will address the Orang Asli land problem by setting aside some
75,900 hectares for 30,000 Orang Asli families, the reality is that the
Orang Asli will stand to lose 51,798 hectares (40 per cent) of the 127,698
hectares that the government already recognises in 2003 as Orang Asli
Furthermore, these 6.25 acre (2.53 hectares) family plots are assigned to
them on a 99-year-lease basis. Nothing can be more graphic of the Orang
Asli’s fate – that their inalienable right to their land now has an expiry
Agricultural development contracts keeping Orang Asli in poverty
At a time when high commodity prices for rubber and oil palm are enabling
smallholders to reap excess returns on their hard work, many Orang Asli
cultivators are only enjoying dividends of about RM1,200.00 to RM1,500.00
This is because the JHEOA has contracted out the development and
management of such agricultural schemes to contractors such as Risda and
Felcra, as well as other private contractors, who charge huge amounts as
management fees, apart from deducting for fertiliser, labour (usually
foreign), and other costs. The Orang Asli are treated as mere
share-holders, enjoying the annual dividend that works out to about
RM100.00 per month. In fact, there has been at least one case of an Orang
Asli being arrested and put away in detention for tapping his own rubber
trees (in RPS Betau, Pahang).
Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic
Planning Commission Chairman