PETALING JAYA: The tragedy of 14 Bateq deaths in Kampong Kuala Koh in Gua Musang is proof that the six-decade old Orang Asli development policy is an utter failure, Lim Kit Siang (pix) said today.
The DAP adviser said there is an urgent need for a new policy and roadmap for Orang Asli upliftment.
“It is most shocking and a great indictment on the authorities concerned, in particular the Kelantan state government, that they were not aware of the Bateq tragedy resulting in 14 deaths until after more than a month of its first occurrence,” he said in a statement.
“Another seven deaths took place in the rest of 21 days in May. Why were the authorities, in particular the Kelantan state government, so negligent and remiss as to be cut off from the Bateq tribe in Kg Kuala Koh to the extent that they knew nothing about the death epidemic claiming 11 lives in May?”
Amanah Senator Husam Musa brought the matter to public knowledge on June 8, when four deaths took place in the first 10 days of May, with the first death occurring on May 2.
Long-time activist Colin Nicholas, the executive director of the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), said the Bateq problem is not medical, but a direct result of what happens when people’s rights to their customary lands are not recognised and that land is destroyed, Lim added.
“The Bateq tragedy is a serious reminder to the Conference organisers of the urgency that the authorities must craft a new policy and roadmap for the upliftment of the Orang Asli communities in the country, so that Bateq tragedy and the SK Tohol tragedy in Gua Musang and the Kam Agong tragedy in Lawas will never recur,” the MP for Iskandar Puteri said.
“Is the federal government able to inform Members of Parliament of such a new policy and roadmap for Orang Asli/Orang Asal upliftment in the July meeting of Parliament?”