In Defence Of The Perak Mb S Vision For Orang Asli



ADUN SPEAKS | I refer to the statement issued by the groups Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia (JKOASM), Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Perak (JKOAP), Penghulu-penghulu Orang Asli Perak and Gerakan Orang Asli Perak recently urging Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu to apologise to them for allegedly saying that Orang Asli are lazy and always ask for government handouts
I was invited as a Perak assemblyperson and was present at a dinner hosted by the menteri besar for all the Perak Orang Asli tok batins (village heads) in Ipoh on Nov 20
During his keynote speech, it was clear that he spoke of his commitment, just like he had done on numerous previous occasions, towards looking after the Orang Asli community and looking for ways to improve their quality of life
He gave an example of him going “incognito” into the Orang Asli community in Pos Kemar and spending the night there without any government officials (except for two bodyguards) at their settlement. It had been done so discreetly so that he could listen to their grouses on a firsthand basis, without any third parties
Faizal made it very clear that he wanted to change adopted ways to improve the socioeconomic environment of the Orang Asli community in Perak, while emphasising their children's education as a means of climbing the social ladder
As such, the menteri besar has initiated a programme to provide a holistic means of assisting the Orang Asli community by instructing state GLCs and corporate bodies to adopt the Orang Asli settlements, so that development can be more focused
What Faizal meant by selective aid programmes for the Orang Asli was that he wanted them to be more proactive in coming up with business ventures which suit their surroundings
For example, he praised the Kuala Mu Orang Asli community who started chalet services. In acknowledging their initiatives, he said the government would be more than willing to assist them to further develop the business
He urged the other Orang Asli communities to emulate that good example. I can see that the menteri besar believes in teaching them to fish rather than giving them fish
In the same vein, he said that the government should stop providing or giving away things that are not suitable to help the Orang Asli, just for the sake of giving goodies
Liberating from povertyThe menteri besar's vision for the Orang Asli community is to liberate them from poverty so that they can be freed from overly depending on the government. Faizal has made it clear that the Orang Asli should not be naively supporting leaders who are involved in abuse of power and corruption, just because they need help from such leaders or government. He even urged the Orang Asli to criticise the present government, if there have been wrongdoings
He did not say so expressly, but I believe that he was referring to the leaders of the previous regime, many of whom viewed the Orang Asli as 'votes' instead of respecting them as fellow humans
As such, he said that aid and programmes initiated by the BN government in helping the Orang Asli need to be reviewed because these have proven to be inadequate or ineffective, otherwise the Orang Asli would not be still trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty until now
This has led to the menteri besar coming up with programmes which could really help the Orang Asli community to improve their livelihood, so that they can be empowered and liberated from being used as 'fixed deposits' by BN for the last six decades: “If we are serious in helping them, we must help to liberate them – not by keeping them as what they are just for the sake of securing their votes during the general elections”
I share the view that the duty of the government is to liberate the people from poverty, giving them what they truly deserve and meanwhile improving services to the people – giving the best to the people, and then letting the people decide every five years during the general election who they wish to govern them
In conclusion, there is no necessity for the menteri besar to apologise for what I think are candid and bold observations, at the risk of being twisted, as has just happened. Instead, he should be congratulated for being able to speak the truth, a scarce commodity these days
LEONG CHEOK KENG is the state assemblyperson for Malim Nawar. - Mkini

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