There is no limit to the challenges of combating corruption. A training with 12 Orang Asli kampungs around Johor today showed just how exploited they have become within a corrupted entrenched system.
They represented villages from four districts in Johor, namely Segamat, Muar, Kluang And Mersing.
The plight of the Orang Asli has been widely documented. The link between poverty and corruption cannot be underscored. It runs in both directions, and hits marginal, poor people hardest - with distressing consequences.
A bribe demanded by a government agency, or a contract awarded to a crony, may mean distortion in allocations and in policies, disruption in services, and damage to the overall economy.
Unclean water supply, interrupted electricity in many areas and poor upgrading of homes are evident signs of a failing system.
It is imperative then, that to fight against their social and economic exclusion and marginalisation, the Orang Aslis need a critical space for discussion with the authorities.
C4’s rural education programme aims to do just that - help open the doors of engagement for disadvantaged communities to take part in development processes by facilitating dialogue between them and key public institutions, particularly the MACC, and related agencies, including governments at all levels.
Opening a new window of engagement today, C4 successfully connected 12 Orang Asli village leaders with the MACC chapter in Johor to tackle accountability issues by the Orang Asli department (JAKOA), land and forest agencies, push for greater transparency and deal with widespread corruption in illegal logging and land encroachment.
The director of MACC Johor was present to address the group, an indicator of the importance and weight given to the event today.
While it must be recognized that a lot more needs to be done to build capacities of the Orang Asli communities to document violations and wrongdoings, a first step was established today, one that can be deemed a highly significant.
A joint working group made up of MACC Johor, C4 and the representatives of the Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Malaysia (JKOASM Johor) was formed at the close of the workshop. It’s an incredibly encouraging start to deal with the complex multidimensional problems of the most exploited community in the country.
The rural communities especially the Orang Asli’s have long suffered the worst consequences of corruption, and paid heavily with their lives.
Today seeds were planted among them, with hopes that their future generations who deserve better, will indeed live better, free from corruption and poverty!
CYNTHIA GABRIEL is executive director of the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4).