Thursday, 18 March 2010

Are Orang Asli Bumiputras?

Yesterday, more than two thousand orang asli (some would prefer to call them orang asal), complete with their traditional gear converged on Putrajaya to protest against a new land policy which seems to shortchange them and demand recognition of their rights to their ancestral lands. Under the policy each family is to be given 2.4ha for agriculture and 0.1ha to build their houses. Prior to this protest, a Gombak orang asli hospital doctor who went public with her allegations of mismanagement and cronyism at the hospital was prevented from carrying out her duties and was later transferred out of the hospital. Coincidentally, after her transfer, the hospital director was also removed from the hospital.

Are the orang asli bumiputras? The constitution seems ambiguous on their status. Some would argue that it includes the orang asli in the peninsula (the defacto Law Minister for instance) while others contend that bumiputras refer specifically to Muslim Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. The interpretation of 'bumiputra' by various public institutions seems to exclude the orang asal. For instance, the Higher Education Ministry defines a bumiputra as:
  • in Peninsular Malaysia, if one of the parents is a Muslim Malay the child is a bumiputra,
  • in Sabah, if the father is a Muslim Malay or an indigenous native, his child is a bumiputra,
  • in Sarawak, if both parents are indigenous natives, their child is a bumiputra.
Where do the orang asli fit in? It seems that they have forgotten about the orang asal, the presumption being few if any would make it to colleges or universities. So what's the big deal?

The upshot of of this is that even the marginalized orang asal who have been suffering in abject silence have for once decided to stand up for their rights. Were they emboldened by the recent success of their counterparts in Sarawak who were successful in legally wrestling back their land from the Sarawak State government?

Read here and here for more.

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