PETALING JAYA: Six years ago, Manao Alan Wah found out that many Orang Asli in Negri Sembilan villages were able to drive cars and ride motorcycles but they did not have valid licences.
He said issues such as illiteracy and lack of financial resources prevented them from obtaining a licence from the authorities.
The owner of a handicraft shop said he approached the RDS Driving Academy in Seremban, where his siblings work, and they agreed to run a programme by offering a cheaper registration fee for Orang Asli candidates.
“I wanted to help them so that they can drive and drive safely without getting summonses, ” said the 49-year-old.
The initiative called Projek L OA was set up in 2014 in Seremban.
It kicked off with 50 Orang Asli candidates in the first year and to date, has helped over 1,000 Orang Asli get valid licences.
A large majority of them were from the Temuan tribe in Negri Sembilan, while some were from Selangor and Melaka.
He said since many of them were illiterate, the process of getting a licence would take much longer as there were extra steps to take.
“For example, they would have to take an oral exam instead of a computer test.
“For that, they have to be certified as illiterate by the headmaster of a school and also the Road Transport Department (JPJ).
“After certification, JPJ will check whether they are colour blind and if they pass, then they will qualify for an oral test, which is held once a month, unlike computer tests, which are held more frequently, ” said Manao.
He said there was one Orang Asli who took a year and a half before finally getting his licence.
Despite facing numerous challenges, Manao said he was proud of the persistence and perseverance of the community.
“When I see them wanting to improve themselves, that keeps me going, ” he said.
Manao recalled a father who wanted to get a driving licence to send his children to school.
“When he got it after a single try, he broke down in tears, ” he said.
Manao also recounted how a Jakun single mother of three from Jelai tried for years but failed.
He said it was because other driving academies kept pushing her to retake the computer test as they did not want to go through a long process to help her.
Through a recommendation, the woman approached him, enrolled in the driving school and passed her theory test.
“But she failed the driving test. It took her three more attempts and when she finally passed, she was overcome with joy, ” said Manao.
As for his long-term goals, Manao said he hoped the project could expand to other states as there were many enquiries from Johor, Pahang, Perak and Kelantan.
“We are talking to the management to take this project nationwide so that other communities can also get their licence through this initiative.
“We are also approaching driving academy operators to help build up, empower and strengthen other Orang Asli communities, ” he said.