Sunday, October 24, 2021

Good-bye, after 20 years

It's been their home for 20 years but a small group of Orang Asli from the Mah Meri tribe must now say farewell to their tiny village in Bagan Lalang, Sepang, Selangor as the owner wants the land back.

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Those who live here say they first settled in the area in 2001. Most of them work nearby, returning to their original settlement in Bukit Bangkong during long breaks.

On April 20, they received a notice from the Sepang district land office ordering them to vacate the land within 30 days as they had been living there illegally under Section 425 of the National Land Code 1965.

Tenya Atan, 73, is one of the settlers who were issued the eviction notice. With very little money at hand to make the move, the best she can do is to apply for more time.

She often receives disturbing news over the phone and can only hope that her son Taha Akhir, who is the village leader, can reach a settlement with the land owner.

Rahman, another villager, is also short of cash and needs all the time he can get to prepare for the move. He, too, hopes for a good outcome from the talks between the villagers and the land owner, Permodalan Negeri Selangor Bhd.

Meanwhile, he makes do with what he has, catching what fish he can from the sea.

If his luck is good that day, he will have enough to cook for a meal.

There’s not much in his nets today, but everything will be shared between him and his relatives.

Once he gets home, he gives the fish to Tenya Atan, his aunt, and settles down on the porch of his small shack to which he must soon bid farewell.

In a nearby hut, Tenya Atan’s daughter helps prepare the family’s lunch. Today, there is only white rice and some vegetable soup along with the small fish Rahman has caught.

But no matter how simple the meal, Tenya Atan always packs some of the food to give to Rahman, who lives alone.

She walks to his house carrying the food in plates and bowls from her kitchen.

Rahman thanks her before taking the food into his house where he sits on the floor to eat his meal.

A child of one of the villagers runs around the little settlement where the Orang Asli say they lived undisturbed for many years before being told to move out. They blame others who later settled in the area and began operating businesses including renting out their homes as chalets.

There are about 30 people in total living in the area which measures some 67 hectares.

Another child gazes out the window of his home for perhaps one of the last times.

An official from the Sepang Orang Asli Development Department (second from right) takes down the details of the Orang Asli villagers in the area before heading off for a talk with the land owner.

The homes of the Orang Asli are marked out on a map of the settlement.

There is little more the villagers can do other than to sit and wait for the outcome of the discussions.

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