Monday, 4 February 2013

Orang Asal Seleta turn to PKR for hope

Orang Asal Seleta turn to PKR for hope

Top: Chua (seated 2nd right) listening to Iskandar’s briefing on the woes of Seletas. Bottom: Chua addressing the Seletas.
NUSAJAYA (Feb 2, 2013): What’s it like to have your land slowly being acquired without compensation and your more than 1,000-year-old ancestral burial grounds desecrated?
If that’s not cruel enough, throw in with the poisoning of the fishing grounds to deprive you of your only source of earning.
This is all happening here in Kampung Simpang Arang.
Go see and ask the 300 odd Orang Asal Seleta (or Orang Asli) or original settlers of the land.
The kampong was once closed or inaccessible to Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Opposition leaders because they had been staunch Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters.
They did not welcome the Opposition but today it is the complete opposite.
Today, the Seleta villagers welcomed a PKR entourage led by Johor PKR chairman Chua Jui Meng.
Chua, in a brief ceramah, told the Orang Asal that BN had been slowly “robbing” Orang Asal of the land in Sarawak, Sabah and the peninsula the past 55 years.
“The only difference now is that the lands grabs are as blatant as it can get, and legalised by the unjust Land Acquisition Act,” he said.
He said the PR-led Selangor and Perak (for 11 months) governments had proven that “we genuinely serve the interest of the rakyat when elected to govern”.
“Land was given to the rakyat according to their rights, especially the Orang Asal, unlike the BN who only look after the interest of their families and cronies.
“They use the Act to ‘rob’ the rakyat of their land by paying measly compensation and then selling off the land to developers at rocket high prices,” he said, adding the interest of the Orang Asal were spelt out in PR’s Buku Jingga (Orange Book).

Top: Seleta children queuing up to receive their mandarin oranges from Chua. Bottom: Seletas donning PKR caps and tee-shirts show their support for PKR.

 “There are also other people-centric measures that will also benefit Orang Asal, like aid to the aged, children, poor and women,” he added.
“Today, it is clear for all to see how much the majority of Malay land owners who were evicted had lost in Nusajaya, Danga Bay, Tebrau, Tanjung Piai and many other areas.
“The thousands of Pengerang villagers are next. They are being evicted to make way for the non-sustainable Petronas Refinery and Petrochemical Integrated Development (Rapid) project. Rapid needs only about 6,000 acres. Why is the Ghani Othman-led BN state government acquiring 22,500 acres?”
Seleta welfare chief Iskandar Roki said: “We are the Orang Asal. We occupied this land long before (First Prime Minister) Tunku Abdul Rahman. Even before the Johor Sultan or Sultan Abu Bakar. We have had enough of BN bullying us and its empty promises. We will defend our rights.

Top: Seletas using motor boats to ferry the PKR entourage to the 1,000-year-old desecrated graves of Seletas. Bottom: Chua taking notes of a briefing by a Seleta who had earlier performed prayers to obtain permission to enter the mangrove burial ground believed to have been in existence before the time of Sultan Abu Bakar. (Note: Sultan Sir Abu Bakar ibni Daing Ibrahim, also known as Albert Baker, was proclaimed the 21st Sultan of Johor in 1881. He was also informally known as "The Father of Modern Johor" by many historians.)

“Our mangrove land have been slowly reclaimed and occupied by others over the years with unfulfilled promises of compensation the past years.
“Now, even property developers are allowed to steal our ancestral grounds by covering them up with soil, burying the tombstones. One of the mangrove burial grounds is more than 1,000 years old,” he lamented.
“Our only source of living and income is fishing. That too is being threatened by polluting factories poisoning the sea waters.
“The river mouth and sea used to be rich in marine life, especially fish and prawns. We used to be able to  bananas as bait to catch fish weighing one or two-kilogramme each with ease.
“Today we may return after a day with nothing,” Iskandar said.

Top: Part of the world’s biggest mangrove swamp is now being destroyed by coastal development approved by the Johor Barisan Nasional government. Bottom: Chua using his notebook to record visuals of the woes of the Seletas.

Chua said it was a shame that the state was allowing factories and developers to reclaim some 15km of mangrove reserve coastal land for development.
“A shame because we have the biggest mangrove in the world here and greed is allowed to consume nature,” he added.
Chua said he promised to return to help resolve their woes and needs when PR “is given the mandate to govern after the 13th General Election”. This sparked a round of applause and cheers from the Seletas.
He also assured that the state PKR would provide free legal aid to the Orang Asal to defend their rights and that a lawyer would be contacting them soon.
Chua asked the Seletas to have whatever documents available ready for legal assistance.

A sign board indicating an ancestral mangrove burial ground of the Orang Asal Seleta.

The PKR entourage then distributed Mandarin oranges to the community who also enthusiastically donned PKR caps and tee-shirts given to them.
They then organised 15 motor boats to take the PKR delegation out to the sea and mangrove swamps to show the desecrated graves and the sources of sea pollution.
Chua also instructed the state PKR secretariat to charter two buses to ferry 80 Seletas to a forum on land grab issues on Feb 12.
Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim and former Perak Mentri Besar Nizar Jamaluddin are slated to present keynote addresses in the forum to be held at 3pm in Lee Garden Hotel in Masai.
Chua (second right) returning from an hour-long boat ride inspection of the mangrove swamps with the Seletas.