Financial aid for orang asli
We have a wide range of initiatives specially drawn up to help the orang asli community.
– AsIAh MD ArIFF
JOHOR has been developing at a fast pace, with more and more foreign investments and commencement of mega projects such as Forest City, the Refinery and Petrochemicals Integrated Development ( RAPID) project and the Malaysia- Singapore Rapid Transit System.
Although the state may be facing major changes to its landscape, the state government has been looking out for locals, including the orang asli at rural areas, to ensure that they are not sidelined as progression takes its course.
The orang asli community in Johor is said to be one of the biggest in the country, with over 18,000 orang asli residing in 60 villages around the state.
Johor Women and Family Affairs committee chairman Asiah Md Ariff said that the state government has always place importance on the welfare of the orang asli, as emphasised by Johor ruler Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.
“We have a wide range of initiatives specially drawn up to help the orang asli community, in terms of education, economy and physical aid,” she added.
She said that the state government has allocated some RM2.3mil for school transportation for some 2,528 orang asli children in rural areas this year.
“Some 1,378 orang asli children are also provided with RM2 pocket money each day, amounting to over RM321,000 a year and we provide school uniforms for them.
“Besides those, we have also channelled over RM265,000 for various fees for a total of 2,528 students,” she added.
Asiah explained that boarding school fees cost about RM800 each student, boarding fees ( RM300 each), secondary school fees ( RM120 each) and primary school fees ( RM80 each).
She also said that the aid does not end with secondary education as those keen on acquiring a tertiary education could apply for a scholarship under special funds for the orang asli.
“We offer up to RM6,500 for the applicants doing their degree ( first and second year) while those doing their diploma can get RM5,000 per year.
“We also provide scholarship of RM3,000 and RM3,500 for matriculation or pre- diploma respectively,” she said.
Apart from education, Asiah said that the state government had also constructed some 75 homes for the orang asli coming up to over RM2.7mil in allocations and some RM583,000 was channelled to 55 families for repair works for their homes last year.
“We have also looked into building more road infrastructure and other basic amenities besides ensuring electricity and clean water supply in the villages.”
In terms of economic progress for the orang asli, Asiah said that the state government had included an allocation of RM220,000 for an income raise for 24 orang asli last year.
“The community also receives monthly dividends through oil palm plantation by Felcra as well as replantation of rubber and oil palm through Rubber Industry Smallholders Development Authority ( Risda),” she said, adding that they also receive entrepreneurship and agriculture input aid.
Sultan Ibrahim had directed the state government to review the logging concessionaires and, if necessary, stop all logging activities and refrain from awarding state land to individuals.
“Forest reserves must be maintained and not used for agricultural- related activities and should be kept for the livelihood of the orang asli,” said the Sultan.
In a Facebook post on his official page, Sultan Ibrahim had posted that he had fostered close ties with the orang asli before he ascended the throne.
He said that his father Almarhum Sultan Iskandar had often brought him, who was then the Tunku Mahkota Johor, to the orang asli’s villages in Johor during official visits.
In his post, Sultan Ibrahim’s uncle, Ungku Yusoff Ungku Abdul Rahman, had said that Sultan Ibrahim until now remains close to the orang asli in Johor and also with his subjects from all walks of life.
“Today, we see the rakyat ( people) loving Sultan Ibrahim because of Tuanku’s caring and responsible character,” Ungku Yusoff was quoted as saying.
Kampung Simpang Arang fishermen head Tan Kim Tong said that the community always look up and respect the Sultan for not neglecting them and ensuring that developments taking place did not affect their livelihood.
Describing him as a friendly and lovable Ruler, Tan said that he had the honour of meeting the Sultan during his visit to the kampung, who was then the Tunku Mahkota Johor.
“I did not get to shake his hand as everyone was crowding around him when he visited some 10 years ago. I hope he drops by again someday soon,” he said.
Tan said that massive developments such as the Port Tanjung Pelepas and currently the Forest City projects had been taking place around the village, but the village is still kept intact.
“I am glad that the Sultan stands up for us and helps to ensure that our livelihood is protected,” he added.
Orang asli children racing down a jetty at sungai Danga in Johor. Their families and others in the area depend largely on fishing and mussel farming for a livelihood. — Kenneth Wong/ The star
The then Tunku Mahkota of Johor Tunku Ibrahim Ismail sultan Iskandar presenting food and medicine donated by IJM Corporation to Kampung Air Tawas orang asli settlement head Batin Menggek Achai ( right) in May 2007 while IJM chief executive officer Datuk Krishnan Tan ( centre) looks on.
The Orang seletar children playing around with traditional hats at their cultural centre at Kampung sungai Temon here in Johor Baru. These children can look forward to brighter days with government aid. — Abdul rahman Embong/ The star.