Hornbill Unleashed

September 24, 2015

Indigenous people left behind – a lot of catching up to do

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 8:03 AM

Twenty one years ago, on Dec 23, 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared that World Indigenous Peoples Day be celebrated on Aug 9 every year to promote and highlight the rights of the world’s indigenous peoples. In Malaysia, they account for 13.8 per cent of the population, which is rather sizable if you compare it with the other races.

In recent years the three majority groupings in Sarawak, Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu, have apparently been classified under their own ethnicity thus leaving only the others, thought to be as many as 102 different groupings of “indigenous” peoples who now make up this 13.8 per cent of the 28.6 million of Malaysia’s population.

The Orang Asli are the indigenous people of Peninsular Malaysia. They number 180,000, representing a mere 0.6 per cent of the national population.

Anthropologists and administrators have traditionally categorised the 18 Orang Asli subgroups into Negrito (Semang), Senoi and Aboriginal-Malay.

In Sarawak, the 45 indigenous peoples are collectively called Dayak and include the Iban, Bidayuh, Orang Ulu, Kenyah, Kayan, Kedayan, Murut, Punan, Bisayah, Kelabit, Berawan and Penan. They constitute around 1,198,200 or 45.5 per cent of Sarawak’s population of 2,633,100 people.
In Sabah, the 39 different indigenous ethnic groups are called natives or Anak Negeri and make up about 2,140,800 or 60.5 per cent of Sabah’s population of 3,540,300. The main groups are the Dusun, Murut, Paitan and Bajau.

This year’s national celebration took place on the actual day, Aug 8 in Kuching at the Dayak Bidayuh National Union (DBNA) headquarters. United Nations’ Children’s Fund (Unicef) senior social policy specialist Victor Karunan was present together with Indigenous People’s Network of Malaysia (JOAS) president Thomas Jalong.

A set of children’s story books featuring indigenous tales from Sarawak and Sabah was launched during the event.

JOAS president Thomas Jalong said that they will be submitting a letter to the Sarawak government to seek recognition for the rights of all indigenous people in Sarawak, as their rights relating to the Native Customary Right (NCR) lands were being eroded.

Jalong also said, “We hope the government will be more sensitive to their plight and make amendments to their current policies or laws related to NCR. We also hope that the government can provide the community with monetary assistance to promote our rich culture and traditions, as well as to carry out our activities.”

However, there was no mention nor any reminder to the government with regard to the long-outstanding issues faced by those in the interior areas especially among the Penan, of those who are without birth certificates and hence identity cards.

This has been an age-old problem, and only seemed to be highlighted when it is near election time. Without these identity cards, these people are stateless, and are unable to receive any education or medical assistance, besides many other government aids and facilities.

Another problem which needs to be constantly brought forward is the issue of workers at the many logging camps dotted along the rich highlands and hills of the land the indigenous people call home, and how some of them have taken advantage of the young women, as several cases of forced pregnancies have been reported in recent years.

Many cases are still left unresolved. Many culprits have never been brought to book, as the many innocent victims continue to suffer to this day from such tragic episodes.

It is a sad reality that in this day and age, by reason of their sheer size they do not have much political clout, and the fact that a majority of them are not even registered as voters compound that tragedy.

Without any political clout, there is a limitation on the demands any community can make on either the local headman, or the local assemblyman – what to say the MP?

Tragically, about the only time that the general population is aware that there is an indigenous community of people out there, is when news surfaces of either a blockade along a lumber road in the interior; the rape of an underage Penan girl, or a tribesman being taken away to the police lock-up due to some protest or another.

We should remember that they too are Malaysians, they too are citizens entitled to all human rights, all the modern amenities and to modern education, health facilities and to a reasonably comfortable life, as much as the rest of us do.

It is indeed a sorry sight to see their living conditions, mostly without piped water, without electricity, and without a decent road to make their way to the nearest village or town, if they so wish to.

Where and when can we, as a decent government begin to bring our own indigenous people into the mainstream of the Malaysian way of life, that we are all used to?

Edgar Ong


  1. […] 新聞來源:每日蟻論 […]

    Pingback by 原住民被抛在后头,要迎头赶上,需加倍努力 | 達邦樹|無聲的吶喊 — September 24, 2015 @ 5:18 PM | Reply

  2. This indigenous people sold their rights to unscrupulous representative for tupence although they are given 10 times more voting right per individual
    In this respect, native and non native all suffer due to manipulation by those in GOVN put their by the indigenous people.
    The indegenous people only have themselves to blame, voting the same unscrupulous over and over again for being given tupenc for their vote
    Don’t blame others for your stupidity and greed

    Comment by Kristian Kokan — September 24, 2015 @ 5:08 PM | Reply

  3. Fook the statement ” we hope the government will be more sensitive to their plight..” pleaded JAOS president. You are such a learned person if you are but you have forgotten that democracy is about equality, government of the people,by the people,for the people.Democracy is government formed by the people as a whole not by any Malay, Chinese,Dayak race or PBB,SUPP,PRS,DAP. The people like you have the power to change the government. You do not need their sympathy. Change the government and you will restore the right and the dignity of the Dayak. Restore back the NCR to the Dayak so that our future generation will honour your effort.

    Comment by otakkosong — September 24, 2015 @ 10:39 AM | Reply

  4. Enough proof that BN governance has never uplift the life of the indigenous people.

    Comment by Danial — September 24, 2015 @ 8:51 AM | Reply

    • even their CELUB brothers/sisters also kena SCREWED BIG time…

      Comment by tiuniamah — September 24, 2015 @ 1:44 PM | Reply

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