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Witness #4 | Yaliyana binti Lenab

Yana is a 26-year-old woman from the Semelai tribe of Kampung Batu Peti located in Rompin, Negeri Sembilan. She is a strict and sometimes hot-tempered person, but she also loves to laugh. She enjoys playing volleyball, listening to music and spending time with her family. Early in the morning, Yana heads out to tap rubber. Her biggest fear is coming across a wild boar while tapping rubber. 

Yana’s Story | Don’t Insult Orang Asli

My first day at school, I was accompanied by my mother. She waited for me at school the entire day, as I was not used to being in school. After that I told her that it was not necessary for her to accompany me to school, as I wished to be independent. From the second day of school I began to be independent, without being accompanied by anyone. I began to befriend students of other races such as Chinese, Indian and Malay students, and those of my own race. I made friends regardless of their religion. I was happy to have many friends in school, and they treated me very well.

In my second year, I became more independent, waking up by myself in the morning and going to school with friends. I enjoyed playing with my classmates when the teacher was not in the classroom. I took advantage of the teacher’s absence, making noise and laughing aloud.

I moved to a different school because I felt like staying in a school hostel. I didn't want to trouble my family to get up in the morning to send me to school. I felt that it would be better if I stayed in a hostel because I would have many friends. I was excited about the atmosphere at the new school because my classmates treated me well. I had two good friends in my class, whose names were Selly and Ayu. They were my good friends, through thick and thin. 

There was a teacher who was always strict with my classmates. The teacher always talked down to my friends. The teacher said, “If I taught monkeys, they would be smarter than you." I immediately replied, “Go ahead, if Teacher wants to teach monkeys, I want to see if the monkeys are smart or not.” The Teacher left the class when I made that remark.  

After that, the teacher treated my classmates well. The teacher apologised to my classmates and me. 

When I entered Form One, I made even more friends, and hung out with them. I was happy to befriend anyone and have fun. 

When I went to Form Two, the Malay students started bullying the Orang Asli. They said all sorts of things like “Orang Asli like eating pigs, frogs, monkeys, and others”. Angrily, I said, “Why do you like mocking other races?” I said, “Orang Asli never mock the Malays. Why do the Malays need to mock my race?”

I was angry and went to see the teacher in charge of discipline. The teacher met with the Malay students who liked to mock the Orang Asli. The students were given counselling. After that, the number of Malay students who mocked the Orang Asli decreased, because they had been reprimanded.

There was also an ustazah (female teacher of Islamic religious studies) who did not like Orang Asli. I don’t know why, but it was said that she was disgusted with Orang Asli because Orang Asli eat pigs, frogs and monkeys, etc. Because of that, she did not like Orang Asli. She was eventually also given counselling. Why be selective based on race and religion? Why be biased? Teachers should not be biased. 

After that, the teacher and the Malay students no longer mocked or looked down on the Orang Asli. The teacher was also no longer biased in class. Everyone behaved well, and stopped insulting the Orang Asli. 

My hope is that students of other races will no longer discriminate against the Orang Asli race. The Ministry of Education should take action so that incidents such as what I experienced in school do not recur. I hope that the teachers understand the culture of my community and not offend Orang Asli children at school, as this will demotivate Orang Asli children.

I don’t want this to happen in any school in Orang Asli communities. Teachers must carry out their duties with a strong sense of responsibility as educators of children, regardless of religion and race. Education is the basis of knowledge in the Orang Asli community, and the Ministry should pay heed to this issue.

The teachers treated the Orang Asli well without looking down on other races and without showing favouritism to any students. Malay students treated the Orang Asli well, regardless of religion, and respect each other. We wanted to be friends. Later on, the teachers also selected Orang Asli to enter competitions such as storytelling, singing, and so on. 

My story, which is not much, ends here. Thank you.

This testimony is reproduced with permission, and has been translated from the following original testimony in Bahasa Malaysia:


Yaliyana binti Lenab. "Jangan Hina Orang Asli." Kami Pun Ada Hak Bersekolah: Wanita Orang Asli Bersuara. Edited by Danker, Brenda and Rusaslina Idrus. Freedom Film Network. 2019. pp 82-87.

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