Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Tiger or 4 Men?

I can finally say I have been to court!

Today, I followed my boss and photographer Ed to Tapah to cover a court case involving several Orang Asli men who allegedly shot a tiger in a forest reserve. I met with the defense counsel - Augustine Anthony and Amani Williams-Hunt, fondly known as Bah Tony to the Orang Asli. (Bah Tony is the first Orang Asli lawyer in Malaysia.) The two of them filled me in on the case over tea.

About 60 Orang Aslis thronged the Tapah Magistrate Court. During the journey, I strongly believed that the men should be charged. But I completely changed my mind. Each men would face a maximum penalty of RM 15000 or 5 years of imprisonment if convicted. I realised how important it was to champion the rights of the impoverished and the marginalised.

The court proceedings covered two PTPTN loan cases, and then only the Orang Asli case. The director of public prosecutions (DPP) questioned a witness but it was rather difficult to hear because they were speaking softly.

The interesting part came when an exhibit - the shotgun - was handed over to the witness. Something happened (long story) and it was a contempt of court, as argued by the defense.

I must say that I could do this (be a lawyer) for a living. Championing the rights of the dispossessed is something I feel is important, but at the same time, the continuity and preservation of wildlife species is equally vital. The government should take note of the UNESCO award-winning Nam Ha Ecotourism Project in Laos.

Collin Michael Hall in his book, Pro-Poor Tourism: Who Benefits? Perspectives on Tourism and Poverty Reduction, states, "...its (NHEP) external reviewers were unequivocal that it had been a 'tremendous success in providing a model on how tourism might be used for development in rural and largely subsistent villages and as a mechanism for promoting forest conservation' (Lyttleton & Alcock, 2002:5)..."

The Lantan or Indigo People of Laos who have benefitted from the NHEP. Photo courtesy of

Next, I'll be heading for a talk by the Perak Academy titled 'Democracy and The Constitution' by Dato' Dominic Joseph Puthucheary. That'll be interesting too.

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