The Sakai and Jakun are people, not insults

JANUARY 24 — It was sobering to read a recent op-ed on another news portal about the sad history of the Orang Asli and how they were preyed upon by slavers.

Like Australia’s Aboriginals, our Orang Asli are a sad reminder that being first to inhabit a land means nothing to those who come after. 

The saying “history is written by the victors” is a little too true in the case of the Orang Asli as few remember or even know about the suffering Orang Asli endured, being treated not like humans with rights but goods to be bought and sold.

Why does it matter, for us to remember that suffering? Because in all these years, things have not improved that much for them but for the rest of us? Well.

Once upon a time, the Orang Asli did try to fight back, to rail against the slavers. In the end, though, the ones who brought them salvation were the “invaders” — the British colonists who found slavery deplorable.

At the very least, though, we can do something for the Orang Asli: drop two words from our national language. It’s time we stopped using the names of the Jakun and Sakai as slurs.

It’s disheartening that people still use the words without considering how much harm they bring. Much as “keling” and “Cina babi” are unacceptable use in any context, it’s time we let “Sakai” and “Jakun” reclaim their proper use as proper nouns, instead of insults.

Words have power; words have meaning. To continue using those tribe names as insults should be disallowed, considered unacceptable in any situation besides being tribal descriptions.

It’s not about being politically correct. We already treat the Orang Asli so terribly so maybe this is one small step to giving something back to a people who have lost too much — their freedom, their land — that at the very least, we can try giving them the right to more dignity and a respect for their identity.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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