Waytha denies plans to move Orang Asli villagers

The Batek tribe in Gua Musang, Kelantan, has been hit by measles, with the disease claiming several lives already. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Putrajaya today denied claims that it plans to move Orang Asli villagers from the measles-hit settlement of Kampung Kuala Koh in Gua Musang, Kelantan, to a new site.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy said the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) had never voiced any intention to relocate the villagers, as claimed in reports quoting Kelantan Menteri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah.

In a statement, he said the subject had never been brought up in the press or discussed at any Jakoa meeting.

“The government cares for and respects the traditional way of life of the Batek community. They are more comfortable in their natural surroundings and it is not reasonable to move them elsewhere.”

Waytha added that Jakoa had implemented a number of development projects including plans for 16 new homes.

P Waytha Moorthy.

“Jakoa will continue to build houses for the community until everyone has their own home,” he said.

He said Jakoa would also work with the Kelantan health department to hold health awareness programmes and ensure that the babies and children are given full immunisation jabs to prevent any spread of disease.

He said there are also plans for gotong-royong or clean-up activities in the area which would see the participation of volunteers from several public universities and NGOs as well as the villagers.

Jakoa is also working with the state health department to introduce a new water supply and environmental cleanliness system which will be put in place once the village is declared measles-free.

“Jakoa has also applied to the water, land and natural resources ministry to supply Kg Kuala Koh with treated water as soon as possible.”

A total of 113 people in the village have been hit with measles, with three officially confirmed to have died as a result of the disease.

It has also been reported that another 12 villagers died while travelling from Taman Negara in Pahang to Gua Musang and were buried along the way.

Post-mortems are being carried out to determine their cause of death.

Yesterday, the health ministry said it had received reports of measles cases involving Orang Asli from Hulu Terengganu in Terengganu and Jerantut in Pahang.