Licence for mining near Orang Asli village expired in 2017, says deputy minister

Deputy minister Tunku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji (centre), with Peka president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil, listening to a briefing on the health situation of Orang Asli at Kampung Kuala Koh, Gua Musang, today. (PEKA pic)

PETALING JAYA: Deputy Water, Land and Natural Resources Minister Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puji said the licence for a company conducting mining activities near an Orang Asli village in Gua Musang had expired two years ago.

He said despite that, the company continued to operate in Kampung Kuala Koh.

“They have a licence from the state government to occupy the land but for their operations, they need to get approval from the federal government.

“The operation licence had expired in 2017 but the company had proceeded to continue operations,” he said.

Earlier today, Tengku Zulpuri, along with environment group Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia (Peka) and media personnel, visited Kampung Kuala Koh.

This is the Raub MP’s second visit to the village within a period of six months.

It comes on the heels of a report by a Malay daily that claimed more than 13 people from the village had died over the past one month from a “mysterious disease”.

A river, on which the Orang Asli used to depend for their daily needs, is believed polluted by mining and logging activities.

Tengku Zulpuri told reporters today that most of the villagers had moved out from their village and were currently living under tents they had set up.

This followed fears that pneumonia affecting many members of the Orang Asli might spread to them.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy confirmed today that 14 people had been reported dead due to pneumonia and 83 villagers were being treated in hospital for the lung infection.

He said a task force had been set up to coordinate action between the various government agencies to resolve the Orang Asli health issue.

Members of the task force will come from the Health Department, police, and Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa).

Peka president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said she was saddened by the sudden illness that had affected the Orang Asli.

“The situation is bad. Logging activities are still going on right behind the village,” she added.

The activist said she had advised the villagers to move out from their homes to prevent them from getting sick.

She said the village’s source of clean water was now polluted from the logging and mining activities.

NGOs such as Peka have provided residents with treated water.