The Orang Asli – Malaysia’s neglected Indigenes?

Orang Asli in Malaysia image by Bart Van den Bosch

This podcast features a talk by Advocate and Solicitor, High Court of Malaya - Dr Yogeswaran Subramaniam, on the Orang Asli in Malaysia. The seminar is moderated by ANU Malaysia Institute's Dr John Funston.

Malaysia’s Orang Asli are Peninsular Malaysia’s first peoples. They number around 215,000, but have often been overlooked. Despite being afforded some constitutional protection, they do not enjoy the explicit ‘special position’ accorded to Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak under article 153, and indeed other similar provisions of the constitution. They are also disadvantaged in terms of education, health and other socio-economic indicators. Orang Asli customary lands, the source of Orang Asli well-being, culture and identity, continue to be compromised due to poor legislative and executive action to recognise and protect these lands, and regardless of repeated judicial recognition of Orang Asli rights to these lands.

In spite of this seemingly perennial impasse, the Orang Asli have recently come to the fore again because of their important role in the January Cameron Highlands by-election – which saw the first ever election of an orang asli candidate to parliament – and legal action by the federal government against Kelantan state for its failure to recognise and protect Orang Asli customary lands. Might these developments usher in a new beginning for Malaysia’s oldest civilisation?

View presentation slides:

Image by Bart Van den Bosch

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