Cus­toms still vi­tal part of life for orang asli

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Malaysia Day - By VIN­CENT TAN vin­cent@th­es­tar.com.my

THE orang asli pop­u­la­tion in penin­su­lar Malaysia con­sti­tutes slightly more than 0.6% of the pop­u­la­tion, or 178,197 peo­ple, in a 2015 doc­u­ment at the Ru­ral and Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Min­istry.

Depart­ment of Orang Asli De­vel­op­ment (Jakoa) of­fi­cially lists 18 com­mu­ni­ties, di­vided among the Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay groups.

Se­lan­gor has 74 orang asli vil­lages, with 5,073 Senoi peo­ple com­pris­ing the Mah Meri pop­u­la­tion and 12,512 Proto-Malays from the Te­muan tribe.

The Te­muan lan­guage is closely re­lated to Ba­hasa Malaysia, although one can find lo­cal dif­fer­ences be­tween one Te­muan com­mu­nity and the next.

In Bukit Du­gang, near Putrajaya, vil­lager Nuar anak Pah re­called the lay of the land be­fore de­vel­op­ment.

“It was for­est all the way from Jeram Hilir. No one would leave the vil­lage un­less there was a big event such as a wed­ding or a fu­neral, or when we had to buy salt and other ba­sic ne­ces­si­ties,” he said.

And even though he and other vil­lagers have jobs, the for­est serves as a “fil­ter” to get away from the pres­sures of mod­ern life and con­nect with their roots.

Liv­ing along Se­lan­gor’s coast­line to­wards the Bant­ing area, the Mah Meri are well-known for their elab­o­rate masks and wood carv­ings on Carey is­land. The Mah Meri are a part of the Senoi eth­nic group.

One no­table event in the Mah Meri cal­en­der is their “Ari Muyang” or An­ces­tors’ Day, a well­known three-day event es­pe­cially cel­e­brated on Pu­lau Carey.

The event is cel­e­brated with food and in­cense of­fer­ings to the an­ces­tors, while a wakil moyang, or medium, also com­mu­ni­cates be­tween the liv­ing sup­pli­cants and the an­ces­tors in the world af­ter.

Ra­man Kasim, 60, said vis­i­tors usu­ally came ask­ing for help and guid­ance on var­i­ous is­sues dur­ing the fes­ti­val.

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