KUALA LUMPUR: There needs to be a greater understanding of the Orang Asli’s nature and psyche, says lawyer and activist Siti Kasim.
Commenting on the Kelantan Orang Asli’s recent tussles with the state authorities, Siti said the authorities’ assumption that she had instigated the blockades in Gua Musang pointed to an underestimation of the Orang Asli’s capabilities.
“How can they say I was instigating the blockades? I am not in the pictures. Most of the time I was here.
“The authorities seem to underestimate the Orang Asli. They think that they are animals living in the jungle.
“But they can think, like we do. They just need to be told about things, like we do,” Siti said here at a forum on the predicament of the Orang Asal and Orang Asli.
Siti also levelled criticism at the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa), saying that a thorough audit of the department was necessary to see where the government’s money was going.
“Jakoa needs a proper audit. We cannot see any improvement in the Orang Asli’s lives. Hundreds of millions (of ringgit) have been given to Jakoa to manage, but where is the money?
“You see the Jakoa officers driving expensive Land Cruisers. That’s where it goes.
“They also build big houses, paying RM30,000 supposedly for each house, but the quality is horrendous. And not everyone gets a house,” Siti said.
Siti also pointed out that building brick houses in the jungle was a terrible idea, due to the heat.
“These people (Jakoa) think that building brick houses in the jungle is good, but it is hot there. The Orang Asli would rather leave their things in their so-called bungalows, and stay in their huts (where it is cooler),” Siti said.
Siti also pointed out that the Orang Asli, having had no experience with more urban concerns such as utility bills, frequently lost their houses.
“They don’t know about paying cukai pintu (assessment tax) and electricity. Many of them have lost their houses, so they go back to staying with their relatives,” Siti said.
“We don’t understand the Orang Asli. We need to understand their nature and psyche.”