Bagan Lalang Orang Asli plead for more time, aid to uproot

Raevathi Supramaniam

Residents of Kampung Orang Asli Bagan Lalang are begging PNSB and Sepang land and mines office for more time to move on after they were served with eviction notices 10 days ago. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Hasnoor Hussain, May 1, 2021.

MORE than 30 Mah Meri tribe members from Kampung Orang Asli Bagan Lalang are appealing for extra time before vacating the land they have lived on for more than 20 years, following an eviction notice by the landowner, Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd (PNSB).

They are appealing to PNSB and Sepang district and land office as they have nowhere to go and no money to relocate if they vacate the land in 30 days from the April 20 notice.

The strip of land faces the Strait of Malacca and is just a stone’s throw away from the Avani Sepang Gold Coast Resort.

The Mah Meri here know they are technically squatters on the land but they have no idea why they are being asked to leave or for what purpose the land will be used, because they were not consulted prior to receiving the eviction notice.

In total, there are 36 Orang Asli from 12 families in Kg Orang Asli Bagan Lalang who are to be evicted. Some of them have converted to Islam, while the rest practice animism.

The first of the residents to settle in Kampung Orang Asli Bagan Lalang, Tinya Anak Antan packs her belongings after she was served a notice of eviction. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Hasnoor Hussain, May 1, 2021.

Tinya Anak Antan, more fondly known as Nenek Tinya, is one of the village elders. The 73-year-old woman was the first Mah Meri to build a house on the land.

“Twenty years ago, this land was a jungle. I cleared it and built a house from wood and other items that I managed to scavenge,” Nenek Tinya told The Malaysian Insight.

Nenek Tinya was originally from Kg Orang Asli Bukit Bangkung, 12km away from her current home. She decided to move to Bagan Lalang for work.

“I used to work at a food court nearby. I cycled to and from work every day and it was very tiring. I noticed that this land, which was a jungle at the time, was vacant and I decided to clear the land and build a house here to be closer to work,” she said.

At the head of her village is a small building that belongs to the General Operations Force (GOF). Adjacent to that is a plot of empty land, which has been converted to a picnic ground for tourists.

It was on this land that she initially built her home before she was asked to move to the current plot, a few hundred metres away behind the GOF building.

“In 2010, representatives from Avani asked me to move a little further back from where I initially built my home. The GOF personnel helped me move and I had to rebuild. At the time, they never asked me to vacate the land, only to move further back.”

After moving, Nenek Tinya’s family members decided to join her there. Soon after, outsiders who were not Orang Asli, decided to build holiday homes on the same plot.

No consultation with villagers

On April 20, Nenek Tinya said representatives from the land office, PNSB and Avani came to the village accompanied by police officers. They served the villagers with the eviction notice and also stapled it to their front doors. The plot of land occupied by the Orang Asli belongs to the state government and PNSB.

The notice from PNSB’s legal department dated April 20 stated that Plot No 69, HS(D) 18372, PT 5249, Plot No 70, HS(D) 18373, PT 5250, HS(D) 37248and PT 9925 belonged to the company and the villagers were trespassing.

It asked that they vacate the land peacefully within 30 days of the notice and that they bear the cost of moving.

Avani also has an interest in the land because it is part of a joint venture company formed by PNSB and Sepang Bay.

It is unclear which plots the district and land office owns, but according to the notice also dated April 20, it wants the Orang Asli to vacate the government land near the GOF building.

Citing Section 425(1)(a) National Land Code 1965, the notice states that the Orang Asli have unlawfully built on the land. If the villagers fail to vacate in the given time, they may face a RM500,000 fine or imprisonment of up to five years, or both.

Neither party gave the villagers any warning prior to that.

“I’m fully aware that this land doesn’t belong to me and my intention was only to ‘menumpang’.

“All I’m asking now is that the authorities give the Orang Asli living here more than the 30 days to move out. I have lived here for so many years and over that time I have accumulated a lot of things that now needed to be moved.

“It is also a financial burden for many of us here who are old and no longer working. Those who do work, work as fishermen and they don’t make much.

“It is quite unfair for them to serve us a notice of eviction in the middle of the fasting month so close to Hari Raya,” said Nenek Tinya who lives alone and survives on RM300 monthly from the welfare department.

Her house has one bedroom with a plywood wall to separate it from the kitchen. To move out, she will need to rent a lorry, which will cost around RM450 to transport furniture, clothes, fridge and other large items from her home.

She has the option of a new dwelling but it will cost her money that she doesn’t have – RM650 a month to rent a house in Taman Sri Bayu, which is walking distance from her current home.

The eviction notice was unexpected, said another villager who did not want to be named.

The woman voiced her disappointment that they were not consulted before being asked to evict.

“They came to do a census here in the middle of March and even then they did not tell us anything. Out of nowhere we were served this notice,” she said.

Kampung Orang Asli Bagan Lalang resident Rosli Juah says the villagers are not disputing who owns the land, but would like a little monetary assistance to help them move on. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Hasnoor Hussain, May 1, 2021.

Show some compassion

Villager Rosli Juah, 59, is also puzzled at the notice which came out of the blue.

It was only four years ago that the village received electricity and clean water supplies after a recommendation by the Orang Asli Welfare Department (Jakoa).

Rosli, who is married to Mah Meri tribe member Siarah Landi, 63, hopes that the land office, PNSB or Jakoa can provide them with some monetary aid to move.

“We will comply with their request. They showed us all the supporting documents that this land is theirs, we’re not disputing that. What we want is for them to give us financial help and a little more time for us to move,” said Rosli who is unemployed.

Meanwhile, Nenek Tinya’s son, Taha Bin Akhir, the Tok Batin of Kg Orang Asli Bukit Bangkung also looks after Kg Bagan Lalang and has written to the land office and PNSB to ask for an extension on behalf of the villagers.

In his letter dated April 26, Taha cited the fasting month, the upcoming Hari Raya, the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that the villagers have nowhere to go, as reasons for consideration for an extension.

Zashnain Zainal, a neighbour from Taman Sri Bayu and a good friend to Nenek Tinya’s relative Yek Raman, brought the eviction of the Orang Asli to the attention of the Sepang lawmaker Mohamed Hanipa Maidin’s office.

Hanipa’s special officer Azfar Faruqi Mohd Idris and Sepang municipal council officer Vijayarany Arumugam visited the villagers on Wednesday.

“I sent an email to the MP’s office and that’s why they came to visit. The best that they can do is to help the Orang Asli try to get an extension of the eviction notice.”

Meanwhile, Vijayarany said she will be seeking the help of Sungai Pelek assemblyman Ronnie Liu to speak to the land office and PNSB.

“We are not going to fight the matter, we’re merely asking for an extension so that the Orang Asli have more time to move. Liu might also arrange a meeting between the Orang Asli and the other parties.”

Vijayarany also did not know what the state-owned company’s plans are for the land as the council has not been informed of it either. She said a representative from Avani told her that they will brief Liu in due course.

The Malaysian Insight is also trying to reach PNSB for comments.

Currently, the Orang Asli are still waiting to hear if they’re request for an extension has been approved.

Nenek Tinya, who was the first to live there, is still hopeful that they will allow her to stay on.

The thought of having to move from a home that she had painstakingly built makes her very sad, the wrinkled, weather-beaten elderly woman said.

“I want to be close to the sea. I want to continue living here so I can be close to the spirit of the sea.” – May 1, 2021.

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