KUALA LUMPUR, June 19 – The Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) has denied claims that it planned to move the Bateq tribe out of Kampung Kuala Koh in Gua Musang, Kelantan, after a measles outbreak.
Utusan Online quoted Jakoa director-general Juli Edo as saying that the purported relocation of the Orang Asli community had never been brought up in any department meeting.
He reportedly said relocating Malaysia’s last nomadic indigenous tribe was not the best solution, but inter-agency planning was instead required to plan more holistic development for the community.
“In handling this case, Jakoa has decided to give full cooperation to the Kelantan State Health Department and district office so that the Bateq tribe of the Orang Asli are given complete immunisation shots.
“Vaccinations given to babies and children can protect the Orang Asli community from infectious diseases like those affecting them now,” he reportedly said.
Bernama reported yesterday Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah as saying that Jakoa planned to move the Bateq people out of Kuala Koh to a settlement that enabled easier monitoring of their health status and living conditions.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P. Waytha Moorthy also denied claims that Jakoa was planning to relocate the Bateq tribe.
“The government is very considerate and respectful of the Bateq community’s traditional customs and way of life. They are more comfortable staying in their natural surroundings, and it is unreasonable to move them from their natural environment to another place,” Waytha Moorthy said in a statement.
He also pointed out that Jakoa has already undertaken several housing projects in the village and built 16 houses, with more to come.
“Jakoa has also worked with the Kelantan State Health Department to build a water supply and environmental cleanliness system. Action will be taken as soon as Kampung Kuala Koh is declared safe from outbreaks and returns to green zoning,” said the minister.
“At the same time, Jakoa urges the Ministry of Water, Land and Natural Resources to provide treated water to Kampung Kuala Koh as soon as possible.”
A measles outbreak is suspected of killing 15 Orang Asli from the Bateq tribe in recent weeks after health authorities identified 37 measles cases in Kuala Koh that has poor vaccination rates.
The Health Ministry confirmed that a severely malnourished two-year-old boy from the Bateq tribe died last Monday from measles.
Police said today that autopsies on the other 14 bodies have been completed.