PETALING JAYA: An Orang Asli senator has challenged Sapiah Nor, the director-general of Orang Asli development department (Jakoa), to file a police report over claims that some groups are being instigated to sow discord over land issues.
Ajis Sitin said given Sapiah’s position as a government official, her allegations without any follow-up action might make it seem as though she was just “playing politics”.
“Merely disclosing the matter to the media does not resolve the issue, nor does it benefit the Orang Asli community,” he told FMT.
Sapiah’s claim was made in an Utusan Malaysia report which quoted her as saying that several NGOs representing the community had told her they would lose their funding if they did not stir up issues related to Orang Asli land.
She reportedly said the matter came to light after an engagement session between the department and NGOs, though she declined to name the relevant groups.
She also claimed that a certain commission wanted to see the Orang Asli continue living in an undeveloped environment, though she again did not name the body.
“If she believes that there has been a breach of the law or administrative procedures, then she should immediately report it to the authorities for investigation,” said Ajis, who is also a former Jakoa director-general.
He added that Jakoa should be acting as the intermediary between the Orang Asli and the government, with the NGOs conveying the desires and aspirations of the indigenous group.
Yesterday, Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Semenanjung Malaysia said Sapiah’s claims were untrue and that it was “shocking” for the director-general to make such an allegation.
“The alleged claims by the NGO leaders mentioned by the director-general are not only untrue but also belittle the struggles of the Orang Asli NGOs.
“It also implies that the NGOs can be easily manipulated by other parties for their own benefit,” said the network’s chairman, Tijah Yok Chopil.
Tijah said Orang Asli land is very important to the community as it is tied to their survival, culture and history, adding that it is their right under the Federal Constitution to raise concerns on land issues.
She urged Sapiah to reveal the names of the groups and leaders involved in order to truly shed light on these claims.
“We hope the director-general is ready to take responsibility for her statement and she is sincere in clearing the air.”