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Why fear Orang Asli’s right to political association?

What's wrong if the natives of this land wish to come together to defend and protect their rights in this democratic country

File photo - KOMAS

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Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi recently raised serious concerns over the formation of a “new Orang Asli political party”.

He reportedly slammed the move and alleged that irresponsible quarters were infiltrating Orang Asli communities with “political motives”. 

These efforts, he added, aim to divide the Orang Asli community and should be stopped.

So the deputy prime minister suspects that the setting up of the new Orang Asli political party comes with ulterior motives. 

His fears and allegations appear to stem from his belief that the new party will discredit the government and divide the Orang Asli community.

He suspects “a hidden agenda” behind this new party and questions its development goals.

He claims that NGOs have set up the party and demanded that the Orang Asli communities “teach those organisations that funded the party” a lesson”. 

Earlier, Cameron Highlands MP Ramli Nor, the country’s sole Orang Asli MP, said the Registrar of Societies had approved the formation of the new political party for the Orang Asli.

We are talking of about potential members from among the 217,000 Orang Asli in the country. This explains the fear-mongering!

But seriously, more people should question the position taken by the deputy PM – technically the next in line to the country’s most powerful leader. 

What is so wrong if the Orang Asli want their own political representation in our democracy?

After all, don’t the ethnic Malays in the country have political parties – each trying to outdo the other in ‘defending Malay rights’? 

Don’t the ethnic Chinese and Indians have their own parties to defend ‘Chinese’ and ‘Indian’ rights? 

READ MORE:  What makes a party 'truly Malay'?

Isn’t Umno itself defending Malay rights and Malay dominance in the country? 

So, what is wrong if the natives of this land wish to come together to defend and protect their rights in this democratic country? Our constitutional system of governance guarantees those rights, including the right of association. 

To claim that the natives’ political party is driven by ulterior motives is a distortion of reality.

What about the ‘ulterior motives’ of many other parties in this land that are seeking to oust the “unity government”? Obviously, these groups are also guilty of ulterior motives – are they not? 

For that matter, is Barisan Nasional, which Zahid leads, free from ulterior motives?

The unity government appears fearful of its own shadows. It should remember it can only grow from strength to strength if it offers convincing grounds to draw other parties to partner it.

If the Registrar of Societies has indeed approved the country’s first Orang Asli political party, we should celebrate this development. It is evidence of political maturity taking shape within the indigenous community. 

Let us face reality. After six decades of independence, if the Orang Asli finally form their own political party, is it not also a reflection that other political parties are also divided along racial or religious lines and have disillusioned the original inhabitants of this land? 

Any national leader who wants unity to thrive in this land should not isolate and divide communities and associations solely for political survival. 

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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