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MALAYSIA – Video of Semelai (indigenous People) woman losing house in fire sparks concern

Ainaa Aiman FREE MALAYSIA TODAY Tue, May 18, 2021

Semelai women showing the product of a community mapping effort on their customary lands. Picture taken in February. (Jef Yangman pic)

PETALING JAYA: An Orang Asli (Indigenous People) woman’s cries after seeing her family farmhouse burned down, and her crop destroyed has sparked claims of an attempted bid to annex the Orang Asli’s customary land.

A video by a Semelai Orang Asli woman showing the ruins of her family’s farmhouse which was destroyed in a fire is now making the rounds on social media.

In the video, the woman can be heard narrating the incident, said to have occurred the night before on May 11. She is shown pointing out what remained of the farmhouse belonging to her late grandfather.

The video also showed what was left of her pineapple and banana trees, which the woman said had been cut down by unknown individuals on the same evening of the fire.

According to her, the fire took place at around 7pm on May 11 at Kampung Paya Berangan, on the border of the Temerloh and Bera districts in Pahang.

A police report was lodged by her relative today, urging an investigation into the incident.A screenshot of a video showing a ruined farmhouse belonging to a Semelai family, which was burned down in a fire on May 11.

Speaking to FMT, her uncle, who declined to be named, said the family was unsure who had started the fire or whether the incident was related to any encroachment or land-grabbing attempts.

“We cannot accuse any parties of being involved because we were not there at the time, and we do not have evidence.”

Orang Asli activist Colin Nicholas however claimed that the incident was another instance of land-grabbing often faced by the Orang Asli in Pahang.

He said encroachments into Semelai customary land in the area had been happening for over a decade.

Since 2007, the tribe has been fighting for recognition over their land and had even appealed for help to stop the encroachments at Kampung Paya Badak and Kampung Paya Beranang.

A screenshot of a video showing a ruined farmhouse belonging to a Semelai family, which was burned down in a fire on May 11.

Speaking to FMT, Nicholas said the incidents followed an ownership dispute over a plot of land measuring 1.609ha bordering the two villages. It is understood that the land belongs to an individual from Kuantan.

“The Semelai made police reports and wrote to the menteri besar (of Pahang) and their MP. But no action has been taken.

“Their right to their own customary lands has simply been ignored. This has opened the floodgates to a host of other aspiring land-grabbers,” he said.

Speaking on the alleged encroachment at Kampung Paya Berangan, he said the incident may be linked to proposals to develop a group settlement plan or Rancangan Tanah Berkelompok (RTK) called RTK Jeram.

The participants of the RTK will be Malay residents from Kampung Jeram and Kampung Durian Tawar in the Temerloh district.

The land in these villages is categorised as Malay Reserve Land by the state government.


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