Report: Carey Island port project threatens ancestral home of native Mah Meri

File photo showing members of the Mah Meri tribe performing a ritual dance during a thanksgiving ceremony  on Carey Island. — Reuters pic
File photo showing members of the Mah Meri tribe performing a ritual dance during a thanksgiving ceremony on Carey Island. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — The Mah Meri Orang Asli will lose not only their ancestral homes but their age-old lifestyle on Carey Island if the federal government goes ahead with plans to build a mega port city there.

In a report today, Al Jazeera pointed out that the indigenous Mah Meri have a very close relationship with their ancestral land and the natives were upset that they may be relocated due to the port project.

“It’s not that fair if they want to take, they will take. There is no land title or grant,” one of the tribesmen identified by a single name, Kemi, told the Qatari broadcaster.

Rashid Esa who manages the Mah Meri Cultural Village on the island, said the island was home and that it meant everything to the indigenous people.

“Their environment, their surroundings, this is their life (Mah Meri) are unique people. They are not from our time, really,” he was quoted as saying.

The resistance to the Carey Island port proposal was not limited to the older generation. Sazrin Gali, 15, was also reported saying that he will fight for the island if it was taken away from him.

“I will resist this is the land where I was born. Everyone will protest,” Sazrin was quoted as saying.

Port Klang Authority chairman Tan Sri Kong Cho Ha has reportedly said the total gross development value for the Carey Island port may exceed RM1 trillion once all three phases of the 20-year project are completed.

The new port-city project, Kong said, will comprise the development of an integrated port and related infrastructure, industrial parks and free trade zones, commercial and residential buildings in an area over 100sq km or double the size of Putrajaya.

As of today, construction of the port remains sketchy and Kong was also reported as saying that studies were still ongoing.

A similar case to this is already happening in Kelantan, involving the Temiar Orang Asli community in Gua Musang.

In the name of development, the east coast state’s rainforests are being stripped at a fast pace.

The PAS-led Kelantan government has since come under fire for its purported refusal to rein in logging in the state, which the indigenous communities who live in the forests said is damaging their land and livelihood. 

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