Sunday, September 14, 2008

Orang asli / asal (failed) protest march

On the LRT to Masjid Jamek station, I looked out the window. What a beautiful day to be having a demonstration, I thought. A pity I didn't bring my sunglasses. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS) chose today to march from Central Market Annexe Gallery to Istana Negara, today being the last day of their gallery exhibition as well as the 1st anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN-DRIP). Malaysia was one of the countries which voted to adopt the declaration.

So here it is: walk to the palace, and deliver a memorandum, and pull off a PR (as in "Public Relations", not "Pakatan Rakyat") coup in the process.

The goal is to raise various issues affecting the orang asli.

Pic 1: Riot police arrived early, sitting in wait.

Pic 2: The orang asli did not disappoint my expectations, with face paint and traditional costumes everywhere.

Pic 3: The man leading the march, holding a nicely decorated envelope containing the memo.

Pic 4: The BAR Council sent some observers too.

Pic 5: BAR Council observers.

Pic 6: This guy here is carrying a rattan basket.

Pic 7: A police officer looks on while his boss informs the organisers that he must call off the demonstration or face arrest, despite getting prior approval.

Pic 8: We are Malaysians too!

Pic 9: Give it back!

Pic 10: The demonstrators, the press, the crowd, the cops... and then there's me....... How am I gonna get in there?

Pic 11: There are as many flash guns getting in the way as my hand has fingers.

Pic 12: Almost there.

Pic 13: Hello...

Pic 14: This is as far as the crowd goes before retreating to the Central Market Annexe building, due to police intervention. A peaceful one thankfully.

Pic 15: Central Market security guards put the side entrances under lock and chain, in case things turn ugly.

Pic 16: Demonstrators climb the stairs back to the gallery, the press follows closely. Having cancelled the march, the best the can do is to hold a press conference and read out the contents of the memorandum.

Pic 17: Posing for photos. Some shouting can be heard later as the organisers try to dissuade some hot heads from doing anything silly.

Pic 18: Some people find press conferences boring.

Although I explained that I am not a member of the press and despite a signboard that explicitly said "Media Participants Only", I was allowed inside and give a copy of the memorandum to the Agong. "Just spread the word," she told me.

Pic 19: Some of the handicrafts on display, some of which is for sale. I bought a bookmark :D

Pic 20: Some press photographers chillin' out. 2nd from the right is Bazuki, the accidental winner of the DCM Photographer of the Year 2006 (Action and movement category). I didn't know it was him until I saw a sticker with his name on it on top of his flash gun. The Reuters photographer won the contest when someone else took a few his photos and submitted it as his own. Bazuki found out, made a complaint, and becomes the winner.

Pic 21: Posing for a group photo. Sigh... I need an ultra-wide angle lens.

Pic 22: Posing with the memorandum. "Ini bukan lalang tahu," he quipped in disappointment, adding that he would now have to post it to the Agong. By normal post of course, he said (jokingly) the orang asli can't afford to pay for the "extra service" post (registered, express, ect). It is easier to understand their disappointment when you consider that some have come from the most remote regions of the Peninsula and Sabah+Sarawak to get here.

Pic 23: Giving a short speech on what happened today. Someone offered to record this on his handphone cam and upload it to YouTube tonight. (Hasn't happened yet). Merdekakah Kami? Good question.

Amongst other things announced in the press conference: Cultural show this evening at 6pm, at the gallery. It has been a dull night, I wish I didn't turn down that pretty lady's invitation to come.

Summary of the contents of the memorandum from JOAS to the Agong:

Issues raised:

Right to self-determination
Denied, in violation to Article 3 of the UN-DRIP

Non-recognition of customary lands
In violation to Article 26 of the UN-DRIP

No Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC)
in appropriating orang asli lands, therefore in violation of Article 28 of the UN-DRIP.

Forced resettlement
in violation of Article 10 of the UN-DRIP

Violation of the right to self-governence
In violation of Article 20 of the UN-DRIP

Pressured assimilation & Right to freedom of religion
In violation of Article 12 of the UN-DRIP and Article 11 of the Federal Constitution.

The consequence of Non-Documentation
Many orang asli don't have IC (Identification card), and therefore denied rights and benefits normally accorded to citizens (Article 5 - 13 of the Federal Constitution, plus the right to vote, ect).


  1. Stop seizing customary lands indiscriminately, and those that has already been taken should be returned.

  2. Future acquisition of customary lands should adhere to the principles of FPIC.

  3. Courts should give priority to cases involving customary land disputes while the government should provide legal assistance for indigenous people cases.

  4. Abolish Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA), replace it with an Indigenous People's Council, and appoint a special orang asli representatives at the parliament/state representative assembly. The members of all these will be appointed by the indigenous community itself.

  5. Establish Orang Asli Native Courts, and recognise marriages solemnised by Tok Batin/Penghulu/Adat Council.

  6. Formal government apology for the injustice against orang asli.

  7. End discrimination against the orang asli in legislation, education, health, and media.

  8. Simplify the process for orang asli to apply for IC.

  9. Establish Royal Commission to investigate the issuance of IC and citizenship through forging identity.

  10. Repeal/amend any laws that contradict UN-DRIP.

  11. Enact laws to recognise indigenous rights, in based on the UN-DRIP
Signed by,
Adrian Lasimbang (Chairman, JOAS),
(unnamed) Indigenous Representative from Peninsula Malaysia,
(unnamed) Indigenous Representative from Sabah, and
(unnamed) Indigenous Representative from Sarawak.

== End of summary ==

And the crowd sang,
Orang asal, oh-oh orang asal.
Jangan ngangis, jangan putus asa...

Sweet, but sad.

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The New Straits Times
The Malaysian BAR Council

In case anyone is wondering, my wounds are healing fast and fine. Thank you :)

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Nope, I'm not kidnapped and writing here to plea for a hefty ransom to be paid, just in case anyone is wondering about the tittle.

Rather, I have just joined the swelling ranks of Malaysians who have been snatch theft victims at some point of their lives. I have two bags, one a backpack which I would often use to carry my laptop and camera, or my groceries and other assorted stuff if I take out the removable camera compartment. The sling bag would carry smaller items, such as stationary, notebooks (of the paper variety), scraps of paper, maps, sunglasses, keys, medication, ect.

This morning, I carried both on my way to town. The purpose of this errand is to buy a particular issue of Newsweek so I can answer a particular question from my lecturer about the recent Russian-Georgian conflict, a copy of my favourite photography magazine, and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. For some reason, I attracted some unwanted attention before I even left the housing area.

I never heard it coming, maybe I was day dreaming or the sound was masked by traffic from the nearby expressway. Before I realised it, I have been knocked off my feet and dragged along the road. Just as quickly, the theif let go. The snatch was executed so poorly that the inevitable result was that my bag would simply get stuck under my armpit, whether I want to let go or not. Unless the strap breaks of course, but nylon straps don't have a reputation of doing that sort of thing, and the bag itself was well constructed. He had to let go.

I got up like a ping pong ball bouncing off the road, and try to commit the licence plate number to memory, and failed. Nor did I saw who did it, just that he was alone. I dusted myself off and inspected the damage.

A deep cut on one elbow, and the other was grazed. Some minor cuts and abrasions here and there too. I need a new belt, and the wristband of my watch is scratched. Damn, I love my watch.

My elbows were bleeding, so I covered it with my hands and ran over to a nearby clinic where I was basically told to sit down and bleed for 30 minutes before the doctor even shows up for work. I wasn't given any first aid equipment (say... how about gauze pads?) to help stop the bleeding, even though I very specifically asked for it and explained why I need it.

I hopped over to the pharmacy. No luck, very badly stocked. Might as well never existed.

Oh well, to uni then. The uni's clinic was closed, but I was able to locate a first aid kit. Badly stocked, but it'll do the trick. So I let the police know about it, and resumed my journey to KL city, with a few new items on my shopping list. It didn't take long to find everything I need, except one: wound closure strips. That took forever, but eventually I found it. Spent the night (yes, it took that long to find it) patching myself up properly. I shall need another trip to the pharmacy tomorrow, need more non-adherent pads for my other elbow. The abrasion hurts so much that it is best to keep it covered.

Bloody fool, can't even snatch properly. A failure! A total failure in life, even a dishonest one! No wonder he ended up being such a low life. Blek! May his motorcycle trip over a rock or something and he flies into a storm drain. Head first.


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