An Orang Asli (Malay for Aboriginal) Home. Carey Island, Selangor, Malaysia.
The Mah Meri are one of eighteen Orang Asli tribes in Malaysia. The greatest visible threat today to Orang Asli culture, identity and livelihood is dispossession from their traditional homelands. Orang Asli have no rights to their lands under the Aboriginal Peoples Act. Siti Nanak Bujang, a village chief says, “ The most pressing matter is the issue of land status. This village of mine, with a total of 320 acres is listed as government land”.
The Orang Asli Land Ownership and Development Policy introduced by Malaysia’s Aboriginal Development Department (JAKOA) was supposed to benefit the Orang Asli by allowing them ownership of their land. However, the policy assigned plots of land that did not necessarily take into account the foraging habits that are intrinsic to Orang Asli culture, effectively reducing their living space. “These lands are used by palm oil plantations; we as the original inhabitants get so much less” says Daiman, a carver and dancer in the Mah Meri village.