The Jakun Orang Asli (OA) community consisting of 30 families from Kampung OA Tanjong Keruing located in the district of Pekan, Pahang are desperately short of clean water and are living in a state of perpetual thirst. The Orang Asli reported that there has been no rain in their village since late January. But even this is not enough and the available water arising thereto contaminated.
The greatest danger is the impact this has on their health. It was also reported that many of their people are suffering from diarrhoea, in particular the children and elderly. This is compounded further as the OA can ill afford to purchase drinking water from the shops.
One of the OA Mohamad Sulong said “The water level in the wells are low and quickly used up. After the water is used up, the OA families have to wait until the water level rises again in the well before they can get their source of water. But as soon as it rises, it is used up. The families have to wait long periods for their water. Due to the scarce source of clean water, there is never enough.
By the time the well water level rises significantly , one family will have scooped up all the water leaving other waiting families without sufficient water to draw from. The next family in line will have to wait for the water level to rise and then the next family in line faces the same cycle of waiting and probably thirsting before the level rises sufficiently for collection. The wait is both tiring, frustrating and a strain on community harmony.”
The OA also said the Pahang Department of Water Supply had laid underground water pipes in their village and to their houses sometime back in September 2013. For a short time, there was water supply but it stopped due to low water pressure. The water supply agency then embarked on building a water pump which was completed in February 2014. However, there has been no water supply to date.The Prime minister’s office have promised to look into this water crisis and have found that the contractor in charge of connecting the water supply has absconded and the project abandoned. The Pekan office of the Prime Minister is working on a relief plan.
It is clear that the OA are a most vulnerable group and that special attention needs to be given to the basic needs of the OA. It is very probable that OA communities in the surrounding areas are also suffering from similar hardships. An unusually high number of water projects have been abandoned leaving the OA communities with serious access to clean water. Access to clean water is a right every community in Malaysia should be entitled to and high priority be given to redress this urgent crisis.We urge the Department of Development for Orang Asli (JKOA) to pro-actively look into these cases so that they need not suffer from such unnecessary illness and hardships. The award of contracts to water projects for the most vulnerable groups have to be reviewed. The resources provided by the government will otherwise be wasted and the poor remain impoverished. Worse still, it gives the false impression to the public and policy makers that the OA have already been provided with such basic facilities when the reality is that they are still suffering from inability to access clean water.
Proham is deeply concerned that the human rights and Basic Needs of the OA, who are the most Vulnerable in Malaysian Society - have been grossly violated by negligence and low priority given to meet their humanitarian requirement.Issued on behalf of Proham by Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam (Proham Member) and Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria (Proham Secretary General) April 2, 2014