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Time for a new MB for Kelantan

 | December 7, 2016

In refusing to listen to the grouses of the Orang Asli, Ahmad Yakob is shirking one of his duties.

COMMENT

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Kelantan Menteri Besar Ahmad Yakob must be censured for trying to absolve himself of the responsibility of listening to the grouses of the Orang Asli in his state. That is essentially what he’s doing in leaving it to the police and the Forestry Department to handle the Orang Asli protest against the encroachment of logging companies into their ancestral lands.

Has Ahmad forgotten that he is the state’s chief executive officer?

This isn’t the first time he is exhibiting a lack of dedication to duty. In 2014, when Kelantan suffered its worst floods in living memory, the MB told the people of the state, through Facebook, that he was trapped at home and could not distribute aid to them. He then advised village heads to organise prayer sessions to save the people from flooding.

As MB, Ahmad had access to motor boats and could have asked to be taken to the flood rescue operation centre to ensure that things were running smoothly.

Perhaps, it’s time for Kelantan to get a new MB. The Kelantanese need a more dynamic and resourceful leader.

With the Orang Asli problem now upon him, Ahmad probably disagrees with the blockades and wonders what the Orang Asli are talking about when they speak of their livelihood being threatened.

Like other townies, Ahmad probably thinks that the habitat of the Orang Asli is just jungle, miles and miles of rolling hills and greenery, with the landscape occasionally broken by chocolate brown rivers.

What would townies like Ahmad do if their local supermarkets and pharmacies were closed, their water supply shut, and their graveyards desecrated?

Some urbanites fail to realise that the jungle is the Orang Asli’s supermarket. Most of them fish, hunt, grow hill rice and trade by selling jungle produce to the townspeople. They get their medicine from plants in the jungle.

Our water supply comes from taps, but the Orang Asli bathe in rivers and drink from them. These rivers had clear water until logging activity began. With the trees gone, the soil becomes loose in rainfall and flows into the rivers, turning them muddy.

Worse still, essential nutrients are leached from the soil, leaving it barren. Some logging companies use chemicals, and when rivers and streams are polluted, the water is unfit for drinking or bathing.

Many townies do not realise that the timber people don’ t just cut down trees; they desecrate sacred burial grounds, which are located in the jungle.

Ahmad needs to learn more about the habitat and the culture of the Orang Asli citizens of his states.

He mistakenly thinks that indiscriminate logging and the destruction of the environment constitute development.

Kelantan has a lot of natural wealth, but nature’s bounty has not benefited the people. The state is among the poorest in Malaysia. What has happened to the money from timber?

Ahmad has proven to be unfit for office. He should step down.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

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