Inquiry into Kuala Koh deaths necessary, says activist

Prayers were held before the bodies of 15 Orang Asli from the Batek tribe in Gua Musang are buried at the Kuala Koh Muslim cemetery on June 23. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Centre for Orang Asli Concerns has given its backing to a call for an official inquiry to determine the cause of the recent deaths in the Batek community of Kuala Koh.

Colin Nicholas, who heads the activist group, said there was no denying the need for such an inquiry or a formal inquest considering the conflicting statements coming from many sides purporting to explain the deaths.

The call was made in the Dewan Rakyat last Wednesday by Cameron Highlands MP Ramli Mohd Nor.

Deputy Home Minister Azis Jamman told him the government would consider further action after receiving an official post-mortem report from the pathology department.

Nicholas said explanations from the government on the quality of water in Kuala Koh and the reasons for the deaths were in conflict with independent information from the ground.

He told FMT he was not convinced that the victims definitely died of measles, as explained by the health ministry.

“Was it measles or pneumonia or the water or the general environment or deforestation?” he said, adding that he also doubted the reliability of official information saying 15 people died.

He claimed there were those who died who were not on the official list.

He urged the government to be quick in giving the go-ahead for the inquiry, saying lives might be at stake.

“There’s a possibility that what happened in Kuala Koh will happen at other Orang Asli areas that are heavily polluted,” he said.

He also called for the independence of the proposed inquiry board.

“We need independent people from various agencies, those who have knowledge about the quality of the water, those from the medical side and socio-cultural side,” he said. “We need a variety of people, not just judges and civil servants.”

Another activist, Pertubuhan Pelindung Khazanah Alam Malaysia president Shariffa Sabrina Akil, also said she was not satisfied with government statements on the deaths.

She too called for an independent inquiry, with various experts on the board.

“We do not want the line-up to be made up of government officials only,” she said.