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MP SPEAKS | I have just come out from my visit to the orang asli settlements in Cameron Highlands, where I was since Saturday.

My visit was supposed to end yesterday but it could not go as planned. Due to poor road conditions, I was trapped and spent New Year’s eve in Kampung Orang Asli Semoi Lama together with Pakatan Harapan Bentong MP Wong Tack, Tanah Rata assemblyperson Chiong Yoke Kong, and former Harapan candidate for Cameron Highlands M Manogaran, and a convoy of 12 vehicles.

This was the first time in my 77 years that I have been trapped at a place, with all access to the outside world cut off, which is particularly poignant in an age of instant communications where information travels at the speed of light.

Having to cross the river at Kampung Semoi Lama by driving through it, despite its strong currents, to reach orang asli villages in Pos Lenyang and Pos Titom was also an unforgettable experience.

These unanticipated experiences are most invaluable, as they illustrate vividly the failures of the Umno/BN government in the upliftment of the Orang Asli people, the first inhabitants in the country, after six decades of federal responsibility.

It is a symbol that after six decades, the majority of orang asli communities are still cut off from the outside world when they should have already been brought into the mainstream of national development.

We being trapped at Kampong Orang Asli Semoi Lama should bring the shocking plight and position of the orang asli after six decades of nation-building to the forefront of the Cameron Highlands by-election campaign, as it is time to wipe out poverty among these communities, as well as the backwardness and isolation after six decades of nation-building.

In the Cameron Highlands by-election in the 14th general election, some 80 percent of the orang asli voters voted for the MIC/BN candidate and while the remaining voted for Harapan’s Manogaran.

The time has come for “Reformasi Orang Asli”, and we should aim to reverse the voting trend whereby in the by-election we can get 80 percent of votes instead.

Can this be done?

If this historic result is produced during the Cameron Highlands by-election, it will mean that at last, the orang asli in Malaysia have stood up for their rights as full citizens in Malaysia, with all this means in politics, economics, education, health-care, job opportunities, housing and land.

This is why I have proposed that the holding of a National Orang Asli Conference in Cameron Highlands this month to discuss and formulate a blueprint for orang asli upliftment in the New Malaysia of Pakatan Harapan.

If such a conference could be held in Cameron Highlands, it would also mean that the orang asli in Cameron Highlands who had bravely stood up for the country by being witnesses of truth, justice and democracy against bribery, money-politics and voter-threats in the Cameron Highlands election case, will again create history by spearheading the Reformasi Orang Asli in Malaysia.

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