Turning Heads with Traditional Headgear

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In recognition of his cultural heritage, first Orang Asli MP Ramli Mohd Noor (BN-Cameron Highlands) today sported a traditional headgear while debating the royal address.

Ramli later told reporters he felt proud to represent his Semai tribe by wearing the village chief’s traditional woven headgear called a tanjak ketua.

“I feel proud and this is a recognition of the Orang Asli community.

“This is made by the villagers in Cameron Highlands and they gifted it to me.

Ng Xiang Yi/Malaysiakini

“I’m wearing it today as a symbol that I am the first Orang Asli MP, this is my first speech in the Dewan Rakyat, and I carry this identity to show our existence and that this is our voice,” he said.

Ramli said the tanjak is usually worn by the chief of the Semai group known as the Tok Batin, during special occasions.

He said Semai is one of the 18 ethic Orang Asli groups in the peninsula and is one of the largest tribes.

Though he said traditionally he would not be considered the chief of the Orang Asli, but it is represented through the symbolism of his representation in Parliament.

Earlier in his debate, Ramli urged the government to once again place the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) as an agency under the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, after it was carved out and placed under the purview of de facto National Unity Minister P Waythamoorthy.

He argued that the ministry in charge of Orang Asli affairs during the BN-era had more resources and access to their communities in the rural area, unlike the present portfolio which indirectly implies the orang asli are not united with other races in Malaysia.

“Jakoa must be strengthened through improvements to its organisational structure, increased allocation, and more staff members who are committed to achieve the objective of uplifting the welfare of the Orang Asli communities.

“Jakoa should also not be turned into a ‘port’ (hub) or a cold storage department for under-performing civil servants,” he said.

In his speech, Ramli also urged the government to look into upgrading existing facilities dedicated for the Orang Asli community, including the Gombak Orang Asli hospital which was set up during British rule.