ABOUT 300 orang asli from nine villages in Simpang Pulai hope the state would use its authority to stop an agro-farming and agro-tourism project on their “tanah adat” (customary land).
The developer of the project has already entered the 121.7ha land to flatten the area, destroying crops and graves of their ancestors and kin in September last year.
The nine villages include Kampung Pawong, Kampung Chiduk, Kampung Sungai Penuh, Kampung Palas, Kampung Pos Atap Baru, Kampung Jemol Bekeroh, Kampung Gempas, Kampung Chiduk Lama and Kampung Jantung Baru.
Following the matter, they had sought Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir’s intervention but no action has been taken.
Speaking on behalf of the villagers, Johar Changgang, the chairman of an ad hoc action committee to reject the project, said the developer is still actively clearing away land.
“We learnt that the developer wants to carry out an oil palm project there.
“Our source of water from rivers has been affected because of the project,” he said when met outside the state secretariat building to submit another memorandum to Dr Zambry, which was received by his executive officer Asad Safwan Mazlan on Wednesday.
“Whenever it rains, the river turns muddy. Also, because of the land clearing, it has destroyed lots of forest produce,” he said.
“The produce such as herbs, crops and petai are our livelihood,” he added.
Johar, 44, also said the developer came without notice, bringing in heavy machinery to flatten the land.
“We were not told about anything. It was only after we complained about the matter that the Orang Asli Development Department (JAKOA), land office and the developer approached us,” he said.
Johar also said they fear disasters would occur because of the development in the area, which was located uphill.
“Our villages are mostly at the foot of the hill. We fear landslides could occur. We will continue to protest against the project until a solution is found,” he said.
“Money is not so much of a concern. We want our land undisturbed. It would be useless to have money if we can’t find forest produce to sustain our livelihood,” he added.
Another villager, Bah Leh Anjang, 55, said their tanah adat was important to them.
“The orang asli community has been there for generations. It is where we buried our family. It is also where we roam and collect forest produce.
“We are angry that the graves of our ancestors have been destroyed. It has always been a custom for us to visit these graves monthly,” he said.
“Now, we have been barred from entering the area by guards, who have set up a post and gate there. We do not know what is going on up there now,” he added.
Assisting the orang asli is Simpang Pulai assemblyman Tan Kar Hing, who said that the area was a forest reserve and was classified as an environmental sensitive area in the national fiscal policy.
“It is also categorised as level one, which is the highest level whereby it needs the most protection. It is also located within the Central Forest Spine along the Titiwangsa range,” he said.
“What we don’t understand is how a forest reserve changes its land status to agriculture,” he added.
Tan said he has also searched for the status of the related developer on the Malaysian Companies Commission and found its nature of business has been classified as dormant.
“How can the state give approval to a ‘sleeping’ company to develop the land?” he asked.
“I hope the state can give answers to this,” he said.
At a separate press conference, Dr Zambry said the relevant departments would look into the matter.
“I’ve yet to read the memorandum. But we are democratic, we will look into all these memorandums that are sent to us.
“JAKOA and other agencies will look at the memorandum,” he said.