KUANTAN: A group of Orang Asli from the Jakun tribe today denied allegations contained in a newspaper report that they were living at a dumpsite along Jalan Bukit Ibam, Muadzam Shah, near Rompin.
A representative of the group said they had only been there to collect recyclable items that could be resold to supplement their income.
Mahmud Dom, 55, representing a group of people who were photographed while at the dumpsite, said they had gone to the site to collect cans, bottles and scrap metal.
“We came here only to earn some extra income. We need money to meet the expenses of our children who are in primary and secondary schools.
“To just depend on a salary of RM900 a month is insufficient,” he said in a statement to the Pahang Orang Asli Development Department, received by Bernama here today.
Mahmud, who gathers forest products as his main source of income, said he did not know the intentions of those who spread such allegations, but described it as being disrespectful of his community, besides smearing the department’s name as well as that of Pahang and Malaysia.
He also took the opportunity to seek the forgiveness of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who is Sultan of Pahang.
Mahmud said members of his tribe were shocked when the Orang Asli Department’s Pahang director Johari Alwi and other government officials came to confirm the allegations on the instruction of Sultan Abdullah himself after the news had been broadcast.
“For Allah’s sake, the Orang Asli here only wish to earn some money for our livelihood. The story in the newspaper is not true. I beg for forgiveness from you as what you have heard is untrue.
“Whatever portrayed (in the story) is false. Going to the extent of saying that we eat rubbish is really demeaning to our people here,” he said.
A spokesman for the department said investigations found that members of seven Orang Asli families who had gone to the site had homes in several Orang Asli villages nearby.
They also have permanent jobs, working on farms. Some also received dividends from the oil palm plantations.
“Their children go to school with help from the department. Those who do not go to school, stay at home. Parents tell their children to come with them to the site to help out but this is not by force or coercion,” he said when contacted here.