Too much politicking, too little work done, says Orang Asli activist

Orang Asli children peer from the window of a house in Pos Terisu, Cameron Highlands. Activist Tijah Yok Chopil says it is challenging for the Orang Asli community to send their children to school due to transportation and infrastructure problems. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: An activist for Orang Asli rights has accused politicians in power as well as the opposition of allowing themselves to be too distracted by politics to pay attention to the needs of the Orang Asli.

Tijah Yok Chopil, who heads a group called Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia, told FMT she believed the current disruption in school bus services for Orang Asli children would not have happened if politicians had concentrated on their work instead of playing politics.

“I am not blaming the current government only because this is an old problem,” she said. “But this government is letting things persist instead of working to better the system.”

On Wednesday, Cameron Highlands MP Ramli Mohd Nor said in a press release that the bus services were never disrupted when Barisan Nasional was in power.

He attributed the current disruption to the failure of the government to pay the contractors on time, making it difficult for them to maintain their buses. He said some contractors had not been paid for five months.

The Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) subsequently said the finance ministry had delayed approving its application for payment for the services for April, May and June.

Tijah Yok Chopil.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng denied the allegation, saying the department had been late in submitting the application.

Jakoa has since said the application had been approved and payment would be made immediately.

Tijah said too much politicking had apparently affected efficiency.

“A change of governments should mean something,” she said. “And yet, we are still suffering from the same problems.”

Tijah also referred to what she said was a belief among some people that the Orang Asli tended to ignore the importance of getting their children educated.

She said most Orang Asli, like people of other races, were keen to get their children educated and to support their ambitions.

However, she added, they were often beset with problems associated with the lack of transportation and poor infrastructure.

In a remark that apparently contradicted the Cameron Highlands MP, she said problems that were similar to the disruption of bus services had occurred many times before.

She said she knew of cases when members of the community would try to overcome the breakdown in bus services by banding together to send children to school in their cars or vans.

“They would spend their own money on fuel and car maintenance because the government was slow in giving the necessary funds to Jakoa,” she said.