The rape of Gua Musang

Gua Musang

There must be investigations into allegations of indiscriminate logging and poor treatment of Orang Asli in the heart of Kelantan.

Shahril Ahmad, Free Malaysia Today

What was once a mighty jungle has been stripped bare, raped for all it was worth and left to rot along with the people who depend on the forest for their income, their food, their water, their medicines and their shelter. No precautions were taken against heavy rains, causing landslides that block access to villages deep in the interior. No signs of wildlife are to be found as trees have been razed, leaving no place for Malaysia’s indigenous fauna to graze and hunt.

These are just some of the distressing things that Joshua (name changed at the request of the interviewee) saw during a relief-work expedition in the hills of Gua Musang, Kelantan.

Joshua joined the expedition into one of the hardest hit areas during last year’s flood crisis, where villagers deep within the jungles of Kelantan are still struggling to rebuild their lives as little relief has reached them. In fact, according to one of the locals, it took an 11-hour hike through heavy rain and landslides for representatives of the village to reach the local authorities and tell them that their village was cut off. The main road that loggers built to the village had disappeared underneath earth and fallen trees; there was no way the villagers could clear it with shovels.

The expedition travelled approximately two hours into the jungles of Gua Musang, where Joshua observed that the forest had been cleared in an indiscriminate manner, eliminating any jungle cover in the area. Any tree of worth had been felled and hauled away, and the loggers had made no attempt to replant.

The villagers relayed stories to the relief party that the scenery was not much different deeper in the jungle, and Joshua was told that even four hours in, the sparse, exposed landscape remained very much the same. According to the locals, the logging had even occurred on land one may imagine would be NCR (Native Customary Rights) land. They said the Kelantan government had actively denied the Orang Asli their rights and bulldozed them, quite literally in this case. This allegation is not new. Last November the Kelantan Orang Asli Village Network (JKOAK) accused the state government of usurping Orang Asli rights to get hold of their land, and were especially incensed that PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang called them a “wandering tribe” that needed to join the modern world.

For the president of one of Malaysia’s largest political parties to make such a statement betrays an immense level of ignorance and hubris, and little regard for the plight of the Orang Asli, whose income comes from their land. In most cases, that income is barely enough to support a family, let alone school its young members.