KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 — Rapid development in Johor via the Iskandar Malaysia project has made many people forgotten the existence of the Orang Seletar or sea gypsies.
Not much is known about the lives of this indigenous people who traditionally live on boats and carry out their living on the sea throughout Johor.
Since the Orang Seletar are threatened by development, Puan Sri Prof Dr Jamilah Ariffin, a prominent academic in social development, has written a book on the indigenous tribe.
Prof Jamilah, who is also the wife of former Johor mentri besar Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Othman spent 13 years (2000 - 2013) conducting research on the Orang Seletar in several villages in Johor.
Via her book, ‘My Personal Journey in Observing he Dynamic Iskandar Malaysia and its Forgotten Sea Gypsies: Economic Development Contradictions and Cultural Change’, she studied how the Orang Seletar adapted to rapid growth in Iskandar Malaysia.
The book was officially launched by Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim at a ceremony, here today.
Also present were Abdul Ghani and Member of the Advisory Board of I-Resolve Foundation, Tan Sri Michael Yeoh.
Prof Jamilah said in her speech that there are only 1,700 Orang Seletar with 370 families occupying eight villages in the outskirts of Johor.
"I had selected three Orang Seletar villages who live near Danga Bay and Gelang Patah. The study shows that their number is fast diminishing."
Meanwhile, Rohani said the effort by Prof Jamilah, a leader in social and community development, should be lauded.
"My ministry supports her effort as the multi ethnic society of Malaysia must be preserved for future generations."
She said the book is an eye opener for society to ensure that indigenous tribes do not become extinct because of development and economic progress.
The book is sold in all MPH Bookstore outlets starting today at RM50 for soft cover and RM100 for hard cover.
It can also be obtained from publisher I-Resolve Foundation at tel no 0162087548. — Bernama