MOH Won’t Form Investigating Committee On Bateq Deaths

The Health Ministry insists that measles was the cause of death in the Bateq tribe.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has decided not to form an investigating committee on 15 Orang Asli deaths in Gua Musang, Kelantan, despite some doubting measles as the official cause of death.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad told Cameron Highlands MP Ramli Mohd Nor in a written parliamentary reply that investigations found that measles had caused the respiratory infection that killed three Orang Asli from the Bateq tribe and affected more than half of Kampung Kuala Koh, Gua Musang, since June 3.

“Therefore, MOH does not plan to set up any special investigating committee since the cause of the epidemic has been identified,” Dzulkefly said in a parliamentary reply last Tuesday.

Barisan Nasional (BN) lawmaker Ramli had asked if MOH would set up a special investigating committee at the ministerial level comprising experts in medicine, chemistry, mining, the environment, as well as representatives from the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the police to identify the cause of the deaths of 15 Bateq people. 

Dzulkefly told Ramli that authorities were providing food and ensuring clean water supply for the Orang Asli community in Kuala Koh. 

MOH was also looking for cases of illness in the village and surrounding villages based on the movements of the Bateq people, providing Vitamin A to all children infected with measles, conducting immunisation activities for all Orang Asli, and providing health education to residents.

“For the long term, the cooperation of various agencies and stakeholders is necessary to prepare a strategic plan for the semi-nomadic Orang Asli in order to strengthen health care delivery to them,” said Dzulkefly.

The minister insisted recently that three Orang Asli from the Bateq tribe had died from measles, according to lab tests and autopsies, while post-mortems on the remaining dozen could not confirm the cause of death.

Both doctors and the Bateq people, however, have questioned the official cause of death of measles.

The Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM), which visited Kampung Kuala Koh last April 28, said they did not detect measles in their medical checkups on 140 patients.

Sinar Harian reported Kelantan Islamic Religious Council (MAIK) religious teacher Mohd Fadzli Mamok as saying that after discussions with resident representatives, they felt that the measles explanation did not make sense.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye reportedly told the press in Parliament today that it was difficult to confirm the cause of the deaths of 12 Bateq people because authorities could only retrieve incomplete remains like bones.

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