Time to Respect the Original Peoples

loading Girl from the Batek tribe.

The Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia have been manipulated long enough.

The term “Orang Asli”, or “original people”, is a collective appellation for the 18 ethnic tribes “officially classified for administrative purposes under Negrito, Senoi and Aboriginal Malay”.1 It was coined by the British colonial government when the administration realised “a more correct and positive term” was vital to win the indigenous community’s support against communist insurgents during the Malayan Emergency of 1948-1960. (Derogatory terms such as “jakun” and “sakai” were previously used.)

Legislative initiatives to protect the Orang Asli’s welfare were likewise implemented, including the establishment of the Department of Aborigines in 1950 and the enactment of the Aboriginal Peoples Act in 1954. But the road to socio-economic progress has been a frustrating journey for the indigenous peoples post-Independence; many are still fighting for their basic rights and for a place in Malaysian society.


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