By Elaine Gan Peay Er, Member, Committee on Orang Asli Rights, Bar Council; with photos by Tseng Seng Guan, Member, Committee on Orang Asli Rights, Bar Council
On 22 Feb 2020, the members of the Bar Council Committee on Orang Asli Rights (“COAR”) embarked upon a road trip to Taman Negara. The purpose of the trip was to visit the Batek community at Kampung Kuala Keniam and to deliver supplies donated to them.
After a three-hour car ride, the team finally reached Jerantut, Pahang to get permits to enter Taman Negara. After another half-an-hour car ride to Kampung Pagi followed by a one-hour boat ride, the team finally reached Kampung Kuala Keniam in the late afternoon.
The villagers were friendly and hospitable, and the team stayed in a spacious hut which the villagers repaired prior to the team’s arrival. There is a lovely river in front of the village where the villagers obtain their water supply for daily use.
Since there is no electricity supply, the village is dark when night falls. However, the team made use of the generator which was part of the donation meant for the village. Tok Batin Jusoh and some villagers came and everyone sat down for a discussion.
From the discussion, the team gathered that the Batek community is nomadic in nature and they shifted to their current village 13 years ago. There are two major problems faced by the villagers: most of them do not have birth certificates and identity cards, and most of the villagers did not attend school. However, despite the lack of formal education, the villagers understand Bahasa Malaysia. A lot of children in the village also appear to be malnourished and suffer from skin problems. Clean water supply is also an issue as the villagers use the same river for their water supply and bathing needs. The team promised to assist them the best they can.
The next morning, there was a simple handing over ceremony of the generator and other supplies, and Tok Batin Jusoh accepted the donation on the village’s behalf. Tok Batin Jusoh thanked the team for the donations. Subsequently the team spent the rest of their time interacting with the villagers while waiting for the boats to arrive.
The boats arrived around 1:00 pm and the team bid farewell to the villagers. The members went off their respective ways at Kampung Pagi to return to Klang Valley.
Overall it was a very rewarding experience as members get to experience the way of life of the Batek community at Taman Negara. The members look forward to the next trip to other Orang Asli villages in the future.