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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 11 — With only two survivors found, DAP lawmaker Lim Kit Siang chided Cabinet today for their slow action and mute voices on the case of seven Orang Asli children missing since August 23, and demanded action against those responsible for sending them fleeing into the jungle and risking starvation.
The Gelang Patah MP urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to make his ministers — particularly Education Minister Datuk Mahdzir Khalid, Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Ismail Sabri Yakob and Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohaini Abdul Karim — accountable for their seeming indifference to search efforts for the seven children aged between seven and 11 in the last seven weeks, leading to the deaths of at least three, with two still unaccounted for.
“In the past seven weeks that the seven Orang Asli kids were missing, how many times did the Cabinet discuss the case – in fact, did the Cabinet ever discussed the case at all?
“Are the lives of Orang Asli kids less worthy of protection than Malay, Chinese or Indian kids that they do not deserve serious attention from the Cabinet Ministers?” the DAP parliamentary leader asked in a statement.
The opposition MP commended Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is both deputy prime minister and home minister, as the only Cabinet member to have shown any concern and visited the families of the missing primary schoolers on September 28.
He suggested that if the seven missing schoolchildren had been of Malay, Chinese or Indian ethnicity who had disappeared for weeks, the government would have dispensed all its resources and launched a nationwide hunt to find and rescue them.
He pointed out that “this was not done in the case of the seven Orang Asli kids in the past seven weeks although they were in the 1km vicinity of the school”.
“That such a human disaster and tragedy can take place in Malaysia when we are just four years from wanting to join the rank of fully developed nations is to the eternal shame to Malaysia,” Lim said.
He panned the Education Ministry’s announcement to set up a special committee to look into the welfare of Orang Asli schoolchildren living in hostels as too little and too late.
Instead, he urged the government to suspend those responsible for driving the seven to run away from their hostel, and even charge them with negligence.
He said his party will raise the issue again when Parliament reconvenes on October 19 “to ensure that such a tragedy can never happen again to school children in Malaysia, whether Orang Asli kids or otherwise”, adding that he has assigned the task to DAP national vice-chair and Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, the party’s education representative and Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari.
The Orang Asli students of SK Pos Tohoi, comprising six girls and a boy aged between seven and 11, were first reported missing on August 23.
They were believed to have run away from their school hostel for fear of disciplinary action by their teacher for bathing in a river without permission.
Norieen Yaakob, 10, and Mirsudiar Aluj, 11, were found alive but severely malnourished in the jungles near Gua Musang, Kelantan after disappearing for 47 days.
The remains of Sasa Sobrie, eight, and Ika Ayel, nine, have been discovered, along with the skeletal remains of a child that has yet to be identified.
According to Norieen’s account, the rest perished, starting with Juvina David, seven.
Norieen’s brother Haikal and Linda Rosli, both eight years old, have yet to be accounted for.