Earth Science News  





.
ABOUT US
Malaysia's 'forgotten' tribes left behind by development

by Staff Writers
Kampung Bertang Lama, Malaysia (AFP) July 18, 2010
Just a few hours from the glittering Malaysian capital is a pitiful scene of hungry children and desperate parents, in an indigenous village home to the "forgotten Malaysians".

Naked youngsters with the tell-tale signs of malnourishment -- bulging stomachs and brown tinged hair -- sit listlessly in a hut, while others cling to their mothers as they suckle milk.

Welcome to Bertang Lama village, home of some of Malaysia's Semai people, an indigenous tribe mired in poverty and struggling to adapt as the multicultural nation races towards modernity.

The village, which houses about 300 people, is located close to Cheroh, a small town in central Pahang that sits along the Titiwangsa mountains which form the backbone of Peninsula Malaysia.

The Semai, once nomadic but now largely settled, are seeking recognition of their traditional land rights as well as basic needs -- piped water, electricity, medicine, education and tarred roads.

There is little food in the village where families live a subsistence life, hunting and gathering to trade in jungle products like rattan and agarwood.

Neither is there much money, as the forest they depend on is fast being depleted of its resources thanks to deforestation caused by logging, and the rapid expansion of rubber and palm oil plantations.

There are an estimated 45,000 Semai in Peninsula Malaysia, among some 150,000 indigenous people divided among 19 linguistic groups who live on the country's mainland.

Colin Nicholas, coordinator of the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns, said the people of Bertang Lama and others like them have become "the forgotten and invisible Malaysians".

Nicholas said the Semai played a valuable role in the British offensive against communist insurgents in the 1950s due to their stealth and tracking skills, but are now seen as irrelevant.

"Come elections, ruling party politicians make promises in exchange for votes but after that they renege on their words. Because of their small population, they are easily ignored by the government," he told AFP.

"The indigenous people have been pushed to the brink. Their situation will only get worse. After nearly 53 years of independence, the government is in a state of denial."

Not all Semai or Orang Asli people are impoverished, and some communities, particularly those located closer to urban infrastructure, have done much better in terms of education, employment and health.

But the plight of Bertang Lama village was highlighted when Lim Ka Ea, an executive officer with the Malaysian Bar Council visited recently and recounted her shock at the scene there in a newspaper article.

"The Orang Asli have been regarded as invisible by many people," she told AFP.

"What we do see in them is their 'primitive' form of lifestyle and the entrenched stereotype that they serve no purpose to the advancement of our nation except to make our tourism advertisements look exotic and attractive."

In the village, 11-year-old Jolisa returns home from the forest, armed with a machete and a bamboo basket on her back as she skips along with three other barefoot friends.

"We went looking for wild vegetables," she says.

"Yes I would like to go to school if there was one in our village," she replies with a smile to a visitor's question.

Nearby, inside a dilapidated hut, a naked two-year-old child with mucus dripping from his nose and an expressionless face holds a bowl containing only mashed tapioca, a flavorless starch, for his breakfast.

The chidren are mostly illiterate, and mostly hungry as their families can only provide them with vegetables and tapioca sourced from the jungle.

The village is located just 11 kilometers (seven miles) from a main road but it is a tedious drive along an unsealed logging track.

"We sell rattan, bamboo and agarwood sourced from the forest. But it is hard to find them now," says Yoke Ham, a 47-year-old father of 12 children who says his ancestors settled here hundreds of years ago.

"The average income per month is less than 300 ringgit (94 dollars)," he adds, as cryng babies drown out the chirp of insects.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is striving for Malaysia to achieve developed-nation status by 2020, earlier this month assured all Malaysians that no one will be left behind.

"I promise you, as prime minister I will be fair to everybody. We will help all communities to move forward. We will make Malaysia a high-income country," he said.

But the lofty goals mean little to Robina, who looks in her thirties but does not know her age. She holds her sick three-year-old daughter, Sinar, on her lap and appeals for help as tears roll down her face.

"My child has a fever. I have no money to buy food and rice for her," she says. "We have not had our breakfast yet. Life is difficult."




Share This Article With Planet Earth
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit
YahooMyWebYahooMyWeb GoogleGoogle FacebookFacebook



Related Links
All About Human Beings and How We Got To Be Here



Tempur-Pedic Mattress Comparison

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News
ABOUT US
Baby Brain Growth Mirrors Changes From Apes To Humans
St. Louis MO (SPX) Jul 14, 2010
A study undertaken to help scientists concerned with abnormal brain development in premature babies has serendipitously revealed evolution's imprint on the human brain. Scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that the human brain regions that grow the most during infancy and childhood are nearly identical to the brain regions with the most changes when hum ... read more

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  


ABOUT US
Voodoo rite draws Haitian faithful praying for comfort

27 missing after bus plunges off road in southwest China

The Life-Saving Capabilities Of Storm Shelters

World Bank-managed Haiti aid fund only 20 percent full

ABOUT US
One Tiny Satellite In Space, Whiz Kids Plan Two More

iPad and other gadgets drain Asia of electronic components

Art In Space - Or, How To Set Up A Formation

Tokyo trials digital billboards that scan passers-by

ABOUT US
Indian Ocean Sea-Level Rise Threatens Coastal Areas

Ancient species discovered in Barrier Reef depths

Sucking The Ocean Through A Straw

Indian Ocean levels rising, study shows

ABOUT US
Himalayan ice shrivels in global warming: exhibit

Footloose Glaciers Crack Up

Arctic Climate May Be More Sensitive To Warming Than Thought

US scientist in race to learn from Indonesia's dying glacier

ABOUT US
Thailand to unleash swarm of wasps on crop pest

AgBank shares to start trading in Hong Kong

China seizes eight tonnes of endangered pangolins

China's AgBank makes tepid Hong Kong IPO debut

ABOUT US
Flash floods stain Singapore's reputation as urban paradise

146 dead in China rainstorms and floods: state media

At least 67 dead as Typhoon Conson calms in China

Hunt for Philippine fishermen after killer typhoon

ABOUT US
Kenya goes hi-tech to curb election fraud

Northrop Grumman Wins African Training Contract

G. Bissau president warns army top brass, drug traffickers

Religious intolerance threatens Nigerian democracy: Jonathan

ABOUT US
Malaysia's 'forgotten' tribes left behind by development

Baby Brain Growth Mirrors Changes From Apes To Humans

Timor-Leste warms to Australia asylum idea

U.S. government challenges Ariz. law


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2010 - SpaceDaily. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement