Wakil Rakyat surprised at the presence of non-Jahai outsiders
Published: 11 February 2015
Asok, the son of Penghulu Gelugor at Kampung Sungai Selaor off the Grik-Kota Baru Highway near the Perak-Kelantan border, has been calling us up several times over the past few months relating the pressure being put on his people to give the go-ahead for extended logging in their customary territories.
The forests here, one of the more pristine areas in the eastern Belum-Temenggor Forest complex, was the site of the first FSC-certified forest management unit in the peninsular. The internationally recognized Forest Stewardship Council issues certificates for timber sourced from forests that are managed according to good environmental and forestry standards, as well as requiring the recognition of the rights of indigenous communities living therein. Some countries in Europe will only buy such certified timber, and at a premium. This was in the early 2000s.
PITC apparently no longer holds the concession, but the name is still used by the Jahais here to refer to the logging concession holder and as a place-name. FSC has since withdrawn its certification, but the new loggers still need to comply with the local, albeit lower standard, set by MTCC, the Malaysian Timber Certification Council. Under their 'natural forests' certification scheme, the rights of the Orang Asli dwelling in such forests are still recognized, at least to some extent.
Perhaps because of this, the loggers, sometimes accompanied by forestry employees, 'PITC' reps, or others, have been approaching the Jahais to get their consent for logging to start in a new compartment.
Seeing the effects of the logging on their livelihoods and environment, the Jahais naturally are against any new logging in their customary territories. Even despite being offered monetary inducements, they have consistently said no to all the requests thus far.
But the latest pressure came from the Member of Parliament for Temenggor, no less. His zone representative had been visiting the Jahais, or rather talking to certain members of the community, in a bid to get them to agree, not just to the logging, but also to some plan to turn the area into one 'Aman Jaya' project. We are not sure what the project entails.
Having been informed of a meeting called by the MP for last Tuesday (10 February 2015), we decided to attend as well. For good measure, we invited the MTCC to send an observer, which they did. A forest section auditor from SIRIM QAS International, which is one of the auditing firms for MTCS certification, also came along.
The JOAS-Grik Flood Relief Team, all 18 of them, also came along. There were Temiar, Jahai and Lanoh Orang Asli among them.
A JAKOA landrover with 3 staff members also arrived, laden with some aid items.
The MP and his zone rep arrived after we did. But despite having a nice traditional community hall with a portable microphone set up, the MP decided to have his 'meeting' in the half-completed surau in one corner of the village.
He informed the JAKOA officials to tell us that this was supposed to be a private meeting between him and the villagers "to settle some matters".
We did not make an issue out of this as we were confident the villagers were able to think and speak for themselves. As the meeting dragged on, we were able to get close and listen in. the Orang Asli were recording the meeting in any case.
Nothing was resolved at this meeting. There was talk of getting a few of the leaders to Grik town at another date to further 'discuss' the matter.
One thing for sure, the Jahais here were reassured of the support they can get from the other Orang Asli in the district and the presence of observers from other organisations boosted their confidence somewhat.
For the photo album please clik here: http://bit.ly/1vkMjcv
Note: somehow the hohots are in reverse order. so please start from the bottom for the sequence.
Colin Nicholas-COAC | 11 February 2015