KUANTAN, Feb 15 — A group of Orang Asli from the Jakun tribe today denied the allegations in a newspaper that they were living at a dumpsite in Jalan Bukit Ibam, Muadzam Shah in Rompin.
The group said they had been only looking for recyclables in the area.
Mahmud Dom, 55, representing the group of people who were photographed being at the dumpsite, said they went to the site to collect cans, bottles and scrap metal that could be resold to supplement their income.
“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 Orang Asli Development Department (JAKOA) Pahang 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 good name of Jakoa, as well as that of Pahang and Malaysia.
He also took the opportunity to seek forgiveness from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, who is also the Sultan of Pahang, after being informed that the news had saddened the King.
Mahmud said members of his tribe were shocked when Pahang Jakoa director Johari Alwi and other government officials came to confirm the allegations after Al-Sultan Abdullah himself had ordered them to do so 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 Your Majesty, as what you have heard is untrue.
“Whatever portrayed (in the story) is false, and to the extent of saying we eat rubbish is really demeaning to our people here,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Jakoa Pahang said investigations found that seven Orang Asli families came to the site to search for additional income, and had homes in several Orang Asli villages nearby.
They also have permanent jobs such as working in farms, or received dividends from the oil palm plantations.
“Their children go to school with help from Jakoa and for those who do not go to school, they stay at home. Parents tell their children to come with them to the site to help out, and not by force or coercion,” he said when contacted here. — Bernama