The Orang Asli are asking about an “orchard” that is bristling with closed-circuit television cameras and two helipads on their ancestral land in a remote area of Gua Musang, Kelantan.
Orang Asli claims:
- Project encroaches onto their lands
- The plantation destroyed a swathe of jungle that was the Orang Asli hunting ground, source of food
- Desecrated graves of their ancestors
- Land logged and cleared from 2010 – protested to state government but to no avail
Despite being deep in a forest reserve and nearly three hours from the main road, the 400-hectare plot has its own electricity supply while food and fuel are brought in by boat along Sg Nenggiri and transported via pick-up lorries.
Kg Sg Jadel Baru resident Raman Angah said security in the plantation is tight and the only access road is guarded and monitored via CCTV.
“I was told that the CCTV feeds are viewable all the way in Kuala Lumpur where the headquarters are,” the 62-year-old told The Malaysian Insight (TMI).
“I’ve never seen a plantation like this. We wonder what they are really planting. There are no signboards stating who are the owners and who is working on this land,” said Raman, whose kampung is one of those impacted by the project.
The Orang Asli have been on a standoff with the plantation company’s workers over what they claimed is the project’s encroachment onto their customary lands.
The plantation, they said, destroyed a swathe of jungle that was their hunting ground and a source of food and desecrated the graves of their ancestors.
To prevent it from growing any further, more than 200 Orang Asli from six kampung barricaded the road leading to the plantation. This led to confrontations between the villagers and men employed by the company.
Over the weekend, a group linked to the planters used a pick-up and lorry to block the only access road used by both planters and Orang Asli kampung.
The plantation workers’ blockade was in retaliation to the one set up by the Orang Asli. The blockade ended on Tuesday after activists lodged police reports.
Another Orang Asli, Nur Mohd Syafiq Dendi Abdullah, said land for the plantation was logged and cleared starting in 2010. The community of about 3,000 people protested to the state government but to no avail.
In 2016, they started their first blockade but this was torn down by the authorities. Orang Asli activists, such as Syafiq, were arrested but later released.
Work on the plantation began a year later. In February this year, the community set up their second blockade which is still on today.
Syafiq said the recent confrontation was likely because the blockade disrupted the plantation’s operations.
A TMI survey found that the plantation stretches over four low hills which have been cleared and are carved with circular roads.
The peaks of the two highest hills have been flattened for the helicopter pads.
Syafiq has spotted black helicopters ferrying VIPs landing at the plantation.
During TMI’s visit, motorcycles and labourers could be seen from afar tending to durian saplings, which villagers believe are of the musang king variant.
An excavator flattened the terrain and cleared more land at the plantation’s boundaries.
“Since we blocked the access road, they have been bringing in food through the river and they transport it via pick-ups. There’s a foreign workers’ camp in there but they dare not venture outside.”
Attempts to enter the plantation were unsuccessful as the access road was barricaded.
“The plantation has sent people to scare and intimidate us but when they first started the project, there was no consultation with us over how it would impact on our community.
“Only now they are coming to see us. But it is too late. We will not give up this blockade and we will continue to prevent them.”