Undeterred Orang Asli prolong blockade into ninth day in protest at logging

The Orang Asli community raise their hands in unison during the blockade.
A discussion takes place between and NGo body and the Orang Asli community.

GUA MUSANG: Dozens of Orang Asli from the Temiar tribe here have pledged to prolong their blockade of the access points to rich logging, mining and plantation areas even if they are forced to the extent of entrapping and eating frogs only.

The potential standoff is now happening in the deep forest coverings of Kelantan where the only access there is through a bumpy laterite road and the only vehicles encouraged are four-wheel drives.

The blockade has entered its ninth day after the Orang Asli of about 500 tribesmen and women took advantage of the festive Lunar New Year period to erect barriers which spanned a distance of over 50km, from Kuala Wok to Kuala Betis.

Gua Musang is the largest but least developed district of Kelantan.

The blockades are specifically at three entry and exit points to the logging, farming and mining activities in the district; they are at Chawas, Tohoi and Kuala Wok.

Kelantan Orang Asli Network chairperson Mustafa Along told theSun that the blockade will continue indefinitely, rain or shine, and in the searing high humidity levels.

Their demands are simple; recognise that the land of their settlements should be considered as ancestry status; to ban all forms of logging, land clearing and mining in such lands, and to help them rehabilitate the land scarred by the excess land clearing for over two decades.

"Over-cultivation of the area has resulted in temperatures warming to record levels here while there was the massive floods and mudflows which have happened since 2013," said Mustafa.

Mustafa said that they are willing to negotiate with any representative of the state government, and urged Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah to play his part in finding a solution to the destruction of mother earth here.

Mustafa's colleague Jamali Bin Ayau, 30, who leads their effort at Kuala Wok, insisted that the blockade will continue even if they run out of food supplies and water.

"We will extract water from the river streams and we will hunt and eat frogs."

The entire male community of the Temiar tribe have been mobilised for this effort, leaving only women, children below the ages of 12 and the elderly behind in the several villages which dot the countryside of Gua Musang.

According to Jamali, they have lost their main livelihood due to the rampant land clearing and logging.

"We are dependent on herbal plants and freshwater marine life to sustain our income, as we do not have the means to toil the land, as we are discouraged by the authorities."

The state authorities prefer to conduct large-scale commercial farming in Gua Musang rather than in pockets of agrarian activities, he claimed.

When contacted, a spokesperson working for Tengku Razaleigh, who is the country's longest-serving parliamentarian, has pledged to study the situation first before the Kelantan Prince could offer a comment.

But in the past, Tengku Razaleigh has advocated that the state must consider granting Orang Asli in Gua Musang land under the ancestry status.

He also disliked the notion of rampant logging in his constituency, saying there was no doubt that it has led to widespread flooding in the area.