Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hari Orang Asli - Kampung Sebir

By resolution 49/214 of 23 December 1994, the United Nations General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World's Indigenous People shall be observed on 9 August every year during the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People. The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The Desk for Orang Asli Affairs at the Archdiocesan Office of Human Development (AOHD) organized the first local celebration of this event under the title “Hari Orang Asli” in Kampung Orang Asli Tekir, Jalan Labu, Seremban in 2007. After a lapse of one year, the Orang Asli community of Kampung Sebir, Jalan Labu (located about 6 km away from the last venue), organized and hosted this year’s celebration on the 9th of August 2009. The event not only showcased the community’s rich culture in dance, song, games, art and craft but was also an opportunity for the older generation to inculcate in the younger members of the community a deeper appreciation of their heritage and traditions which are threatened by both modernization and globalization.

With the support of the Integral Human Development Ministry of the Church of Visitation, Seremban, this year's event has also been an occasion to bring together the members of the community that hail from different religions, Catholic, Protestants, Muslims and Traditional Religionists. It was an authentic exercise of both the dialogue of deed and life (culture), which led the denominational and religious barriers to be set aside while allowing for the deeper roots of culture and tradition (adat) to bridge the divide.

The theme for this year's celebration is "The Jungle and the Land: Hearbeat of Indigenous Peoples" resonates with their struggle. The residents of Kampung Sebir has been fighting a long–standing battle to preserve both their traditional heritage and reservation lands from encroachment by outsiders. The ongoing activities of a nearby quarry have caused irreparable damage not only to the surrounding environment but also to the health and livelihood of these people. In this matter, the multi religious members of this small community of Orang Asli are united in defending their legitimate interests against these encroachers. They recently had their land surveyed by a license surveyor to determine the actual boundaries of their reservation land which has apparently confirmed such encroachment. The next stage would be a legal battle to regain what is rightfully theirs.

This year’s celebration also saw participants and visitors from neighbouring Orang Asli Villages, such as the previous hosts, Kampung Tekir and another settlement along the road to Mantin, Kampung Belihoi, thus strengthening the bonds of friendship and culture between the three different villages.

Traditional handicraft weaved from recycled paper.

The Batin of Kampung Sebir with the children of the village

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