Call for amendment of the Malaysian Constitution to put Orang Asli on par with the Malay and Bumiputeras in terms of constitutional privileges

DAP will continue to support the special position of the Malays and Bumiputeras while protecting the rights of other ethnic groups as enshrined in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution. This means we also want help to be extended to all communities who are in need.

The special position is for the Bumiputeras who are in need, and not for the rich Umnoputras. It also means that the non-Malays who are backward and who need help must have access to the affirmative action programmes.

In this respect, I would like to point out that Malaysia’s first and original Bumiputeras – the Orang Asli – have long been neglected since Merdeka in 1957 – nearly 60 years ago.

They have been here for thousands of years, yet they were and are still being treated unfairly by the authorities. In terms of privileges, that no one is more deserving than the Orang Asli communities to be given such a special position.

In 2010, there were 178,197 Orang Asli in Malaysia. The Department of Orang Asli Development (JAKOA) oversees them. JAKOA’s website states that:

“Measures to develop the Orang Asli people are consistent with the principles and objectives of the National Principles and the New Economic Policy goals as well as the Outline Perspective Plan so that the development process can give them prosperity, security and integration with other communities. To achieve the intended objectives, the programs are planned and carried out according to the important guidelines as follows:-

  • Act 134, Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954 (reviewed in 1974);
  • Orang Asli Administration Policies 1961;
  • Cabinet of Ministries 1977’s Decision On Plans to Gather the Orang Asli;
  • Community that live scattered under the Regrouping Plan (RPS);
  • Orang Asli Development duty guidelines in the modern society 1978.”

Did the Orang Asli get a fair deal from the government? Despite all these measures, Orang Asli are still treated with contempt and malice, as if they are strangers in their own land, as shown in the recent sad episode in Gua Musang in Kelantan where 47 Orang Asli were detained by police merely for erecting barriers to protect their land.

What we need now is to have a complete review of the Government programme to bring Orang Asli communities to the mainstream of national development, and a total revamp of government services to uplift Orang Asli in all fields of human endeavour.

We need a New Deal for Orang Asli

For a start, we need an Orang Asli to head JAKOA – regardless of his or her religion, or political affiliation. It is an indictment on the failure of six decades of UMNO/Barisan Nasional policies and programmes to uplift the Orang Asli communities that after nearly six decades of nationhood, the government is incapable of appointing an Orang Asli to head JAKOA.

In less than nine months, Malaysia will be celebrating the 60th National Day Anniversary on August 31, 2017. Let an Orang Asli be appointed to head JAKOA before this date to give meaning and purpose to the nationhood achieved on August 31, 1957.

We must also revamp of the civil service with the appointment and promotion of Orang Asli public servants to important posts in the civil service, covering the entire public service, and not just areas concerning the Orang Asli upliftment.

More importantly, the Federal Constitution should be amended to put Orang Asli on par with the Malay and Bumiputeras so that they too can finally enjoy the constitutional privileges, including education, public service, scholarship, business, and protected reserved land.

The time has come for all of us to act. The time is now.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Gelang Patah