According to Bar Council President Ragunath Kesavan (second from left), a police officer from the Seremban 2 police station had questioned Tok Batin of Kampung Sebir regarding their customary meeting, two days prior to the scheduled event on September 30.
Ragunath said that the police officer requested Tok Batin to provide a written notification of the meeting to the police in order to obtain approval from the police to formally hold the customary meeting.
He then added that on September 30 itself, JHEOA and the police again visited the village and harassed the villagers for not obtaining a permit to conduct their meeting.
"This is the first time in the history of Malaysia that the police have told villagers that they need a permit to hold their own village meeting," Ragunath told the media at a press conference today.
"We have been holding our customary meeting for so many centuries and so many generations. Why suddenly do we need to apply for a permit?" Network of Orang Asli Villages founder Tijah Yok Chopil (pic right) asked.
"Why are the Orang Asli treated like this? Where is Najib's 1Malaysia? We are also very unhappy about the proposed amendments to the Aboriginal Peoples Act 1954," she added.
"There is also the issue of illegal quarry and illegal logging activities in our villages but the police are not doing anything about that. Instead, they come and harass us about a permit," Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Negeri Sembilan (JKOANS) committee member Zurdi Baharu (pic left) said in frustration.
According to Zurdi, the state Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan and also the state police chief Datuk Osman Salleh have yet to take any action against the illegal quarry activities that has been going on for 15 years.
"We also lodged 5 reports about the illegal logging activities but the police just ignored us."
Zurdi's family had the greatest scare of their lives when a large stone from the quarry landed on their house, nearly crushing his child in the process.
"We are sick of the trespassing, abuse and degradation by the government and the authorities. They only protect the corporate," he said in disgust.
Bar Council Orang Asli Committee Chairperson Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan had called the recent actions of the authorities an 'evidence of the paternalistic attitude' of the government towards the Orang Asli community.
"They (government) are nervous about the proposed amendments to the Orang Asli act. The government is giving away a few acres but taking away hundreds of acres from them. They know that Orang Asli are also against the amendments. Memos have been submitted to the government but there is still no response from the authorities," she added.
Ambiga opined that the harassment was to prevent the Orang Asli from meeting and discussing about how the government was fleecing them.
"Otherwise, why won't the government release a copy of the bill for debate? Are they going to table the amendments last minute and pass it as a legislation without considering feedback from all stakeholders?" asked Ambiga who also questioned the government's deafening silence on the matter.
"The Orang Asli community of 18 diverse tribes numbering 150,000 in Peninsular have been continually harassed and their rights denied. They are the 'one community' that has suffered the most under the Barisan Nasional government," Ragunath added.
Tijah then referred several other incidents that were clear signs of the government's bullying of the Orang Asli people.
"After 53 years of Merdeka, do you all know that the water supply to my village of 3,000 people is one small pipe not bigger than a finger (holding out her thumb) and the pipe runs across a pig sty?" she told a roomful of stunned reporters.
"Then there is this Orang Asli by the name of Panjang Tangkak who has been arrested 4 times for selling produce from his own palm oil estate!" she said.
"The government took away his estate comprising tens of acres and then gave him back only a few acres. Then they did not pay him back the dividends that were promised in the agreement. How is he going to survive if he doesn't sell the produce?
Then they arrest him for selling the produce, claiming it belongs to state property. How can the government say that they 'give him land' and then arrest him for selling product from his own land?" said Tijah who also questioned the logic for such arrests.
Meanwhile, Langkap Kessu from Kampung Belihoi, situated between Mantin and Seremban trunk roads, told K4M that the government wants to take away the ancestral land and then divide it into small pieces to give back to the Orang Asli.
"Is this just, under the law? asked Langkap when questioning the legality of the government's claim that all land belonged to the state.
"How can they (BN government) repay our votes with such treachery? We voted for them. Why didn't they protect us."
According to Reh Binjan, another Tok Batin from Kampung Lumut, Lenggeng, Negeri Sembilan, he was appalled at a speech by Lenggeng state assemblyman Mustafa Salim during a Hari Raya open house that the state owns all the land and that there was no ancestral land.
Mustafa was alleged to have said that the Orang Asli did not fight the war, therefore forfeiting their rights to lay claim to the 'ancestral land'.
Mustafa then allegedly labeled Orang Asli as 'penumpang' (squatters).
"Our ancestors were here even before Malaya was formed. This is even before Malaysia gaining independence. How can he call us penumpang? We are all very sick of the way the government is mistreating us."
[Source: Political Watch]