As he laboured to breathe, Pak Samah asked for his JKM (Jabatan Kebajikan Malaysia) form. It was his application to the Welfare Department for social aid. He clutched his JKM form as if he wanted to ensure he could submit it to support his aging wife, Masenah.

Pak Samah passed away on 23 April 2021. He was about 70 years old. Pak Samah and Masenah were the 14 pioneering farmers of the OA Organik farm at Kg Ulu Gumum which started in December 2015.

Pak Samah is remembered by many for his smiles and easy-going nature. But many do not know the countless heartbreak he surmounted.

40 years ago, his 9-year old daughter was abducted and murdered. A stranger, claiming to be a doctor, asked Pak Samah to let his daughter show the way to her grandfather’s house. When they finally found the girl, some of her organs were missing. The abductor was still at large. Feeling a deep sense of failure to defend his daughter and to bring the murderer to justice, Pak Samah took paraquat. He survived but suffered stomach pain since then.

Many years later, outsiders encroached and took his six acres of cultivated rubber land. Pak Samah was devastated for he hoped the land would be a legacy he could pass on to his family.

Two years ago, his second son met with an accident while riding on his motorbike. He was comatose and had to undergo a major brain surgery to remove part of his skull to stop the internal bleeding. Miraculously, he survived. In January this year, Pak Samah’s eldest son fell while collecting decorative rocks for a living. He was crushed and buried in a freak collapse of rocks; he survived, but is now paralysed.

Pak Samah with grandson, son and wife Masenah

Pak Samah’s life is typical of the plights of many Orang Asli, the poorest of the poor in Malaysia. But Pak Samah’s life also symbolises resolute determination of the Orang Asli who love their land and their family

Despite the harshness of life, he battled on to ensure his family was cared for. Pak Samah was never bitter but sought ways to seek justice and recourse as best as he could. Despite his growing frailty, he worked so hard to cultivate his land, putting up markers to protect it from numerous encroachment attempts, and he continued to do so until his final breath.

Many who have known Pak Samah are touched by his stoic response to the tragedies that intruded his life. He was gracious and kind to all, always positive, always encouraging. Rest in peace, Pak Samah.

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