Sunday, September 18, 2005

Greater good?

“…absorbing Orang Asli would eliminate a category of people arguably “more indigenous” than Malays. Chinese and Indian critics of Malay special rights and privileges argue—privately, since it is illegal to question Malay prerogatives—that Orang Asli, not Malays, are the true bumiputera. They say that Malays, like themselves, descend from immigrants. If the government can assimilate the Orang Asli into the Malay population, then, it can eliminate a serious political embarrassment. As one Semai man told Dentan, “When all Orang Asli have become Malays, then Malays will become Orang Asli.”

That’s purportedly very clever, I should say.

It is in the hopes of many that the issues concerning the indigenous groups of Malaysia, or better known as the Orang Asli; would never be put to rest as long as there are small whispers of discrimination, marginalization and injustice echoing through the jungles of Peninsular Malaysia.

If one were to derive some observations from newpaper headlines, one would probably arrive to the deduction that cases of robbery, rape and cheat committed by those closest to the victims are on the rise. The Orang Asli seemed to have known this better than any of us. Having robbed of their physical inheritance in the form of land for ‘agricultural development’, the Orang Asli are already losing ground, literally speaking.

What is more shockingly dumbfounding is the discovery that more often than not, these looters and robbers were the very same people designated to help the Orang Asli- employed to listen, to represent and to protect them from infringement in bureaucratic and legal matters; matters which the Orang Asli were incapable of handling of themselves.

Yet, the robbery and the looting continues, not only exteriorly but also interiorly and this perhaps constitutes a greater harm to the Orang Asli- the assimilation of their indigenious identity to the legal definition of identity that of a Malay.

The consequences of this action are too atrocious to be regarded as ‘for the greater good of these people’. It is plain to see that this is a form of euphemism, played about by government officials when it is just as plain to see that what they are doing to the Orang Asli is ‘ethnocide’.

Once made ‘Malays’, these Orang Asli would be pushed deeper into a legal wrangle of special rights. Land initially reserved for them (already a controversial issue on its own) would actually be easier to be taken away, for instance. On a religiously pluralistic point of view, the Orang Asli would be induced to embrace Islam, as so to fulfill the legal definition of a Malay. Islam propogation is apparently, taking a bigger slice of the ‘reponsibilities’ of the Orang Asli Welfare Department than education and healthcare services; which the Department had originally pledged to commit themselves unto. Muslim ‘Orang Asli’, though with no inkling of Muslim doctrines and theology profess the faith anyway, for the sake of housing, educational, food and healthcare benefits that come in the package of becoming a Muslim; for him and his family. This, without them knowing at all that they would be subjected to the clause to freedom of religion as well. All these to strenghten the standings of a particular race?

The department has always viewed the Church in its missionary trips to the Orang Asli settlements, as a threat to their Islamic propagation. Therefore, it is even stipulated that no non-governmental groups are allowed to enter these settlements without the permission of the department. The Church is doing this in a subversive manner, needless to say in an illegal manner. Yet, if the department won't earnestly help them, can the Christians keep silent?

Although our capacities for now are merely to continuously let these issues bob on the surface of these troubled ‘waters’, with only fragile tension surrounding these ‘waters’, yet; we long to see ripples in these 'waters' soon, even if it were only a small pebble that caused them. Just as the ripples widen, so must our concern for these people widen and be brought further- from mere sympathy to genuine concern to concrete voices and action.

Prayerfully, the Church will make a difference.

Read more on this here and here.
bohtea's previous reflection here and here .


Blogger tehtarik said...

Perhaps, one may ask if I were being biased to criticise Muslims for propagating their religion to the Orang Asli when the Christians are also doing the same thing.

It is not tha act of propagating their faith which I am most concerned of. Rather, it is the chief end of why this propagation is conducted in the first place.

I have no further remarks to make if one were to profess another faith out of his own conviction, only to leave this to the sovereignty of God. It is, rather; the acts of exploitation, again and again; that we must look into.

An Orang Asli appointed to be the nominal director of a company as so to reap the benefits of his customary land, another being 'rewarded' houses and food as long as he becomes a Muslim and thereafter, a Malay by definition whereas his neighbour who is not a Muslim, is deprived of such benefits, another was lobbied as the village chief as long as he wills to be subjected under the demands of the authorities who appointed him.

How much more exploitations must they endure?

9:21 PM  
Anonymous hosanna said...

no, it's not fair. it's not fair at all. i've been to their villages and seen how they live.

your analysis is comprehensive and i can see you really do have a heart for these people.

they are so helpless! in the upcoming holidays, i'm going to work at the AG's chambers. will find out more about this issue.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous kakikopi said...

one ray of hope shines today. the case of Sagong Tasi & Others v Kerajaan Negeri Selangor (an appeal case from the High Court decision in 2002) was decided today (19 September 2005). victory belongs to the orang asli. full judgment to be out later.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous hosanna said...

wow, you are quick! judgement was just out yesterday... orang asli won and Gopal Sri Ram's judgment looked very promising for the orang asli.

4:36 PM  
Blogger tehtarik said...

Indeed it is, yet it only signify that the fight has just begun.

Let those who have means, render their strength to them who don't.

The likes of Lina Joy and OA need you!

Press on, sisters.

5:39 PM  

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