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JKOA – ‘PAS never invite or even consult with us’

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KOTA BHARU  –  The PAS-led Kelantan Government has kept Orang Asli Development Department (Jkoa) officers out of all meetings concerning forest reserve land allocated for deforestation, causing many orang asli to be displaced from their habitat, says a senior Jkoa officer.

The senior officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that although land matters were under the purview and authority of the state government, Jkoa played an important role in giving views and opinions on how to protect the rights of the orang asli.

“Since the change in government in 1990, the then Orang Asli Affairs Department (Jheoa) had never been invited, consulted or even asked to give opinions on plans by the state government to award logging concessions to companies or individuals.

“Our officers have always been kept in the dark over these matters. They are helpless to do anything to protect the welfare, socio-economic and standard of living aspects of the orang asli,” he said.

According to the Star, he was asked to comment on allegations by orang asli communities in Gua Musang that Jkoa had done nothing to look into their plight after the Kelantan Government awarded thousands of hectares including their habitat in logging concessions to companies or individuals.

According to the Star, Orang asli activists had also claimed that logging activities had muddied the rivers and that the orang asli’s source of water was threatened by the use of pesticides, triggering fears of water pollution and other health issues.

The activists claimed that rampant logging in the area had reduced the size of the orang asli’s hunting ground and that Kelantan Mentri BesarDatuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, who was aware of the situation, had done nothing to stop such activities.

The Jkoa senior officer also alleged that one of the main reasons why Jkoa officers in Kelantan had been left out of the meetings was because they were federal department officers who were deemed to be “outsiders” because of political differences.

“In short, the Kelantan Government decided that any plan that had something to do with forest reserves should be kept under wraps’,” he added.

Kelantan/Terengganu Jkoa deputy director Abdul Razak Arshad declined to comment.

However, he said all land matters that concerned the department was under the jurisdiction of the state government and that the department had not been invited to meetings on spill-over effects of land clearing in forest reserves inhabited by orang asli.