Article contributed by Zenathnara d/o Narayanasamy and Seira Sacha Abu Bakar, members, COAR; and photos by Moo Tik Pin, Executive Assistant to the Managing Director, Brickfields Asia College
In conjunction with the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, which is observed on 9 August every year, the Bar Council Committee on Orang Asli Rights ("COAR") organised a fundraising dinner on 3 Aug 2019.
The objectives of the fundraising dinner were to:
(1) raise funds for Orang Asli cases undertaken by Members of the Malaysian Bar; and(2) create awareness and educate the public on the rights of the Orang Asli. Through its advocacy work, COAR has endeavoured to ensure that just laws, policies and practices are in place to affirm and protect the rights of the Orang Asli.
Emceed by Nadiah Hanim, the dinner kicked off with a short video presentation of COAR's past activities, to provide a glimpse into COAR's work and also to attract more Members of the Bar to join the committee. In her welcoming speech delivered in Bahasa Malaysia for the benefit of the Orang Asli, COAR Chairperson Siti Kasim thanked everyone who had contributed to the dinner.
The President of the Malaysian Bar, Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, who also delivered his speech in Bahasa Malaysia, spoke about the history of COAR, which he said was established in 2009 to look into the pressing issues affecting the Orang Asli, especially in respect of encroachment on their lands. He also informed the guests that he recently had the opportunity to visit the Orang Asli from the Batek tribe, in Kuala Koh, Kelantan.
Professor Juli Edo, Director–General of Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli ("JAKOA") spoke next. He said that JAKOA will give its full commitment to the efforts to tackle the problems faced by the Orange Asli. He added that there are also other serious issues affecting them, which have not been publicised.
The first performance for the night was by Bah Anaj, a Semai Orang Asli from Perak, who played a flute with his nose. The evening's atmosphere of festivity was moved up a notch with a traditional dance by the Mah Meri Orang Asli from Pulau Carey, Selangor, who donned face masks and props, and played their own musical instruments. After that, an auction was held to raise funds for COAR.
Two portraits that were painted over a week and graciously donated by Shaq Koyok, a Temuan Orang Asli professional artist from Banting, Selangor were auctioned. Several walking sticks made from a variety of woods and embellished with diverse designs carved by the Jakun Orang Asli from Pahang, were also auctioned. Nirmala Karuppiah, a professional freelance photographer, generously donated a photograph from her collection to be auctioned. A potted bonsai tree by PASU was auctioned off as well.
This was followed by an information–sharing session by the Orang Asli communities from various states, which was moderated by Siti Kasim and assisted by Amani Williams–Hunt Abdullah (better known as Bah Tony), a Semai Orang Asli from Perak and a lawyer himself. The panellists spoke on the hardships endured by the Orang Asli in preserving their rights to land and the troubles they face in their villages.
Throughout the evening, celebrity political cartoonist Zunar made live drawings at the dinner venue and auctioned off his drawings for a handsome sum. All proceeds from the auction went to COAR.
The fundraiser ended with a mesmerising performance by the Sutra Foundation dancers under the tutelage of Datuk Ramli Ibrahim, who gave a brief explanation of the dances that followed his narrative. The dancers were from the Foundation's outreach project and featured dancers ranging from the ages of seven to 11. The "sewang–sewang" traditional dance capped the evening, and all who were present were invited to join the dance on stage.
COAR is deeply appreciative for all the donations received, particularly from its biggest sponsors –– Allianz General Insurance Company (Malaysia) Berhad and Brickfields Asia College ("BAC") –– as well as members of the public who donated generously for the cause and turned the fundraising event into a successful one. The funds raised will be used to assist and support Orang Asli communities in the following areas:
(1) Community development and upliftment;
(2) Non–formal education of women and children;
(3) Leadership training;
(4) Securing the livelihoods of the Orang Asli; and
(5) Strengthening Orang Asli culture.
Additionally, the proceeds will be used to support the ancillary work of COAR in its role as an advocate of Orang Asli rights.
Please click here for more information about COAR's work and activities.