KUALA LUMPUR: The Orang Asli have played a part in building Malaysia into the nation it is today but their contributions often go unrecognised, says Dr Juli Edo (pic).
The Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) director-general said the Orang Asli had left their mark throughout the nation’s history, including during the Melaka Sultanate.
“The Orang Laut or Sea Gypsies were there to help Parameswara build his palace. The community did the same in Perak when Nakhoda Kassim went to Perak and married an Orang Asli, ” he said.One of their biggest contributions was during the Malayan Emergency, when Orang Asli tribesmen joined the Senoi Praaq to fight communists.Juli was speaking during the World Indigenous Day celebration at the Centre for Malaysian Indigenous Studies at Universiti Malaya yesterday.Senoi means “people” and Praaq means “war”.
Juli said it was time their stories were told.
“Every time during the Merdeka month, we don’t see any Orang Asli story aired on television, ” he said.
Established in 1956, the Senoi Praaq was the brainchild of R.O.D. Noone, a colonel in the Military Intelligence while Malaya was under British rule.
It was meant to be a deterrent force to stop communist influence from reaching remote Orang Asli settlements.
Noone became the unit’s first commanding officer.
The unit’s jungle abilities, endurance and fighting skills made them feared by their adversaries.
While there were riveting stories about the Orang Asli’s contributions, Juli said society was reluctant to recognise them.
“Therein lies the problem; it’s like they have been forgotten, ” he added.
Juli, who has been Jakoa head for three months, said he was open to working with researchers and NGOs to address Orang Asli concerns.“As a department, we cannot work in silos. There needs to be a partnership between us and other agencies as well as the Orang Asli themselves.“If we don’t work together, we will only repeat mistakes from the past, ” he said.
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