Article contributed by Seira Sacha Abu Bakar, Member, Committee on Orang Asli Rights; with photos by Md Faizal b Mahat, Senior Administrative Assistant, Bar Council
The Temuan Orang Asli community in Hulu Tamu Settlement, Batang Kali has been facing land encroachment issues since 1996. It started when a party entered their land and began constructing buildings as part of an eco–resort.
On 24 Feb 2018, the Bar Council Committee on Orang Asli Rights (“COAR”) organised a trip to the settlement in Batang Kali. Members of the Bar and pupils in chambers were invited to join the members of COAR on this outreach trip. The objectives of the trip were to increase awareness on the Orang Asli communities in Malaysia; and to gain a better understanding of the problems faced by the Orang Asli communities.
During the trip, the participants met and listened to the issues faced by the Orang Asli community in the Hulu Tamu Settlement. We were told that there are about 1,000 Temuan living there. They still collect jungle produce such as bamboos and herbs, and engage in fishing activities at the rivers.
We were informed by Amran, one of the representatives, that there was a letter from the Land Office stating that the authorities recognised the Hulu Tamu Settlement as an ancestral land that belongs to the community. Amran said they have held blockades on previous occasions to stop the construction of the eco–resort. However, the blockades were demolished by the construction workers.
The community had also filed complaints on the encroachment with the Land Office and Jabatan Kemajuan Orang Asli (“JAKOA”). Unfortunately, no action was taken. According to Amran, the encroachment started in 1996 and the community did not take any action then because of internal disputes. Now, they wish to assert their rights for the land as they are frustrated with the intrusion.
After the sharing and question–and–answer sessions, the participants were shown the area where the ancestral graves were, which had been partly damaged by the construction of the eco–resort. After having lunch prepared by the Orang Asli, the trip ended at around 1:30 pm. Siti Zabedah Kasim, Co–Chairperson of COAR, thanked the participants for their time and hoped for more lawyers to step up and help the Orang Asli with their legal cases.