Parti Sosialis Malaysia has been involved in many community issues of the Orang Asli community mainly in Peninsular Malaysia. The following are some information about the issues that we are involved in; (updated May 2022)
The fight to Stop the Construction of Telom Hydro Dam in Pos Lanai, Jelai Pahang. (2012-2019)
Tenaga Nasional Berhad decided to develop a Hydro-electric project in Pos Lanai, Kuala Lipis, Pahang. Pos Lanai is in the Kuala Lipis District but in included within the Cameron Highlands Parliamentary Constituency. Although 300 or so Orang Asli families would have to be relocated as the 50m high dam would flood their ancestral lands, they were not consulted about this project till after the decision to proceed was finalized.
The local Orang Asli community first heard of this project in a briefing session in March 2013 when En Ghazat Awang, the Head of the Planning and Feasibility Division of the TNB briefed the Tok Batin and the JKKK (Village Committee members) of Kg Pantos, the mainj village in Pos Lanai, about this project. This was followed up with meeting with the other Tok Batins and JKKKs in Pos Lanai some of which was attended by the local UMNO ADUN Dato Sri Wan Rosdy, an EXCO member of the Pahang State Government. Generally, in Malaysia, the Tok Batins who are appointed and paid a monthly stipend by the Orang Asli Department, tend to be very docile and acquiese to whatever the government requests. These briefing sessions did not open the space to discuss the negative impacts that this project might have on the local population and the environment.
Formation of the Pos Lanai Communal Land Action Committee
Several individuals from the local community were unhappy with the manner the project was being pushed through without much information. They formed an action committee in mid 2014 to find out more, to inform their people and to promote a 2-way discussion with the authorities. They sent a letter dated 10/11/2014 to the ADUN of Jelai Dato Sri Wan Rosdi and the Member of Parliament of Cameron Highlands Dato Sri Palanivel asking for a discussion but these requests were ignored. Apparently the authorities prefer to deal with the more compliant Tok Batins and the JKKKs who are quite subservient to the Orang Asli Affairs Department.
The Action Committee found out through their own searches that this dam would flood about 7,600 hectares including much of the communal land of the local Orang Asli population. They also found that this hydroelectric project was fairly inefficient – projected to generate only 132 MW of electricity despite flooding such a large area of land. The Jelai dam located on a more hilly area just 50 km away is expected to generate 372 MW despite only flooding 130 hectares. In terms of the amount of foresdt submerged to generate 1 MW of electricity, the projections are 1MW : 0.35ha for Jelai compared to 1MW : 57.6ha for Tenom.
The action committee then mobilized the local population to block the project by preventing access into the area and by filing police reports. They also brought the issue to Suhakam and highlighted it in the papers.
As they were not making much headway in their quest to renegotiate the necessity of this hydro-electric project, the Action Committee contacted the Cameron Highland Branch of the Parti Sosialis Malaysia. After a series of visits and discussions with the affected community, a decision was taken to go to Court to stop the project and force the authorities to discuss the matter in a more thorough manner.
The KL based lawyer Yudistra Darma Dorai agreed to represent the Pos Lanai Orang Asli community on a pro-bono basis. We filed a injuction in the KL High Court in Mayu 2015 asking for a cessation of all preparatory work pending further discussion. This was granted in September 2015 by Justice ***. This was a great victory for the local population. They had stopped a huge well-connected GLC and created the conditions for a more thorough review of the project.
However this victory was overturned in September 2016 when the TNB lawyers managed to transfer the case to Mentakab High Court, file an ex-parte action to injunct the Action Committee (the second injunction) from obstructing the work of the TNB contractors. The Mentakab High Court ruled that the first injunction granted by the KL High Court was specifically pertaining to work on the Telom Dam. He accepted the TNB arguement that the work that the TNB is now doing in Pos Lanai is in relation to another dam about 50km away! This other dam was never mentioned in the KL High Court hearings.
- In December 2016 the Action Committee took a decision to withdraw the case at Mentakab High Court and attempt to re-file it at the KL High Court again because they felt that the judge’s comments during the course of the hearing the peoples’ challenge to the second injunction appeared to be biased towards TNB. Among others, the judge commented
- That the Ulu Jelai Hydro-electric project was environmental friendly. Apparently the Judge was accepting TNB’s assertions at face value.
- The Judge tended to refer to the Action Committee members as “kuncu-kuncu” (agents/thugs) while he referred to the TNB contractors as “wakil” (representatives).
- That Jeffry b Hassan, the Chairman of the Action Committee and the named Plantiff in this case, was acting out of self-interest and jepordizing national interest. .
- About 1000 individuals in the local community had agreed to being relocated to make way for the project.
Large Hydro-electric Dams are not environment friendly
Large dams contribute to global warming in two ways. First, they destroy the forests that serve as the “carbon sink” that absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide and converting it back to oxygen. And second, the submerged organic matyerial decays producing methane which is an even more potent greenhouse gas than carbon oxide.
The Telom dam will create a lake that is the third largest hydro-electric related lake in Semenanjung Malaysia. The area submerged would be equal to the size of Labuan. It is a gross error to consider hydro-electricity as a clean source of power as the chart below demonstrates.
Mode of Electricity Generation against CO2 emission in pound per kilowatt-hr of electricity generated
Mini hydro-electric dams
0.01 – 0.03
Large hydo-electric dams that submerge forests
0.6 – 2.0
1.4 – 3.6
The larger the area submerged the worse the impact on the environment. Unfortunately we do not have an independent body that can assess and evaluate whether any hydro-electric project proposed is worth the environmental costs.
Are there Hidden Agendas?
It is difficult to explain why the TNB is so keen on continuing with the Telom Dam which will submerge so much more forest than the Ulu Jelai dam. There are some who speculate that there are powerful interest groups who are keen to get the opportunity to log the 7,600 hectares of land that will be submerged. There are mega bucks to be made by the companies that win this logging contract.
Or is gold the cause? The orang asli have noticed that a company named Rosmal (M) Sdn Bhd has been surveying the area around their current village. They have heard that it has won the licence to prospect for goal during the period it will take for the dam to be built. After all the Selinsing gold mine is only located 50 km away.
After a long court battle and the persistence of the Pos Lanai OA community, Pakatan Harapan Government heeded to the OA demand and scrapped the project.
Fighting Against Proposed Rare Earth Mining Project in Pos Lanai, Kuala Lipis, Pahang (Sivarajan A)
With almost 2,500 indigenous people living there at one point, Pos Lanai is the dear home of a community of Semai Orang Asli families. Located in Kuala Lipis, Pahang, this ancestral land is steeped in history- The Semai Orang Asli have lived along this Central Forest Spine area connecting the Hulu Jelai forest area for hundreds of years. They have made the forest their home, and have served as guardians of the forest, mountains and rivers well before modern civilization realized the importance of the forest and its natural ecosystem to Climate Change.
Now, because of sheer corporate greed and government negligence, hundreds of Semai Orang Asli families face the threat of losing their home- and their lives.
After years of their fierce protests against encroachment, Pos Lanai is now being attacked on all sides.
Illegal logging activities threaten to destroy their ancestral land and kill one of Malaysia’s most important green lungs and ecological corridor.
Agricultural activities in Cameron highlands threaten to pollute their only water source and cut off their only channel to the outside world.
And their worst threat yet- A proposed mining project threatens to eliminate the ecosystem of a reserved forest area equivalent to 924 football fields worth of forest, force them out of their ancestral home with nowhere else to go, and poison their drinking source with lethal chemicals- along with entire districts in Pahang and Cameron Highlands.
All these consequences together create a compounded act of violence- One that tells the Orang Asli that their voices, history, and very lives mean nothing at all.
The case of Kampung Orang Asli – Kg .Air Tawas and Kg Tanah Gembur in Gunung Ledang, Tangkak, Johor.
Court matter filed : 23rd Feb,2017 – JA-21NCvC-3-01/2017 by
Jengkeng bin Jani(village head, Tok Batin Kg Air Tawas) and Mengek bin Achai(village head Tok Batin Kg Tanah Gembur)
Defendants – Zila Maju( contractor working for the state, encroaching their native customary lands)
⦁ Pengarah Perbadanan Taman Negara Johor ( state National Park authority )
⦁ Johor State Government
⦁ Malaysian Government
Kg Air Tawas has got 104 natives and Kg Tanah Gembur has got 400 over natives. They have lived in the forest surrounding the Gunung Ledang mountains for hundreds of years. This is their native customary land. Their ancestors are buried in these grounds.
Since November, 2016, the appointed contractors , Zila Maju have encroached on their native customary land to build trenches and fences surrounding the forest forbidding the orang asli from entering into their native customary land which is the forest .
Any natives entering the forest to collect forest products ( as they have been doing for generations) are now prosecuted and fined .
The case has been taken by the village heads on behalf of both the village communities challeging the authority of the contractor to encroach the lands and the powers of the national park authority to unilaterally grab their lands by fencing the communes they have lived on all this while.
The case is filed at Johor Bahru High Court .
Following their court action, the Department of Orang Asli affairs has sacked both the village heads – Jengkeng bin Jani(village head, Tok Batin Kg Air Tawas) and Mengek bin Achai(village head Tok Batin Kg Tanah Gembur) from their positions as village head without reason, only citing that the Johor palace is unhappy with their actions, challenging the State government in court. Their allowances to have been stopped.
The case at Pos Piah village in Perak, Sungei Siput
Pos Piah is a Orang asli village in Sungei Siput northern Perak state. The indigenous communities native customary land is currently being threatened with encroachment by logging companies. The adjacent forest reserve Hutan Simpan Piah, compartmens 253 & 258 is within the Wilayah Tanah Dan Adat Orang Asli( Native customary land) of Kampung Kembok, Pos Piah village Lasah Sg Siput (U), Perak.
The deforestation in this forest reserve has been on going since 1976. Currently the logging actvities are getting closer to their village and endagering their livelihood. The rivers are getting contaminated and forest products and animals being depleted.
On the 20th June, 2017, around 20 indigenous people from the Kampung Kembok, Pos Piah confronted the logging contractors, carrying out logging activities about 1 kilometre from their dwelllings. The villagers questioned the contractors on their activities and higlighted how their rivers and forest resources are being affected by the deforestations. Mudslides and contamination of their water source is getting worst day by day.
There were no discussions or consultations with the indigenous community by the Jabatan Kebajikan Orang Asli (JAKOA), indigenous peoples welfare department nor the forestry department regarding the licences approved to logging companies on their customary land. The authorities completely ignore the native customary land rights of the Pos Piah people .
On the 12th August, 2017, around 11 indigenous community villagers were arrested by the forestry department and were locked up by the police. The villagers were only inquiring the activities of the forestry officers when they entered the village to tag the trees, marking them for logging.
When the villagers confronted the forestry department officers they were immediately arrested and kept on police lock up for 2 days.
The forestry department works hand in hand with the police and the logging companies to intimidate the villagers continuously so that they will not protest to stop the logging activities.