Monday, August 19, 2013

The Hill People and Hill Walking

I've climbed to the top of the hill and met the Hill People for 3 times. There're undoubtedly hill people around the world and this post will be revealing the hill at Bengoh Dam. There are quiet a number of villages in this hill namely Bojong, Sait, Semban and Rejoi.

Bengoh village is the village situated at the foot of the hill. The name is now taken to be known as the dam built in that area. The building of the dam has lead to evacuation of hill people living in that hill.Current situation: The construction of the dam has been completed. The flooding process was delayed due to the slow clearance process. The Hill People are given new houses at somewhere else besides a compensation for their land. Some of the recalcitrant people, instead of moving to the resettlement area are moving higher to the top and building new houses to avoid from being affected by the water of the dam. There are as well villages that are not affected by the dam and remained unaffected by the clearance order of the authority.
*On the contrary to this piece of article, according to the hill people, Semban is not affected.*

We were there to provide free medical services such as medical check-ups(basic), tooth extractions and check-ups besides giving free medicines according to doctors' prescriptions.  We had to climb for 5 hours to reach our final destination which was Semban.

The hardest part of the hike was the ascent of the hill.We stopped each time after ascending for about 10 to 15 steps to take some deep breaths before continuing. It took us 5 hours but not the hill people. 

According to them, it takes them around 2 hours to reach the foot from top of the hill if they're carrying nothing with them. So they basically will stride along the way. With stuff that weight around 10 to 30kg or more at their back, it will take around 3 hours.

The  Hill people who were hired to carry our medicines and some other stuff.

The resettlement of these people has stirred up public opinions. Whether or not it is good or better for them to be resettled after their lands are taken is an unknown to us until we visit them by ourselves at the resettlement site. Giving opinions without real experience by going down to the field is seriously pointless.

One thing for sure is that it is very inconvenient to live in the hill. They have to climb up and down just for some grocery. The basic amenities are there but not a complete one. Take electricity supply for example, it isn't proper and complete.  But again, inconvenient to us does not necessarily inconvenient to them as they have been living in this way for ages.

Perhaps, they find it is more inconvenient to live at the resettlement site? For instance, living in the hill, they can always plant for food and do some earnings with it. Resettling would mean they have to figure out their new source of income.

Maybe I should pay a visit to the resettlement site in the near future. 
They are the aborigines of Sarawak. Their rights should always be protected. In general, It is correct to say they have no choice but to give up their lands as the government has the right to take over one's land for greater good and public use. Having said that, one thing that should not be neglected is that they must be given an appropriate amount of compensation alongside with an up-to-par resettlement site with proper facilities.

The aborigines and even the natives in peninsular are self-employed. They have the survival skills to live in places that are rich in natural resources. They fish they plant but they never work for the others. Forcing them to move to a new place, living behind their ancestral lands is very hard for them. 

They have no final say. They have no survival skills in this so called 'outside world'. Everything is so foreign. It will take some time for them to adapt to the new environment but until that time, i think something has to be done to make sure they are 'alive'. A resettlement site with proper and sufficient lands for gardening and planting is just perfect -not just some empty concrete houses. They're definitely not fancy of that.

One thing to be answered, how to stay alive? The lands taken aren't just lands but their source of food. You deprived them of their lands, something in EQUAL should be given back to them. EQUAL means EQUAL. EQUAL in their eyes, not yours. 

How to fulfill their needs without knowing what they need?