National Unity and Social Well-being Minister P Waythamoorthy says he is seeking a meeting with Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad to discuss allegations that Orang Asli women were coerced into taking birth control treatment without prior informed consent.
Waythamoorthy's office told Malaysiakini that he is still calling for a probe into the issue.
The minister said there had been a lack of understanding on the part of health officials on the special needs of the Orang Asli when they complained about being given birth control pills.
“We can appreciate the health ministry’s concern, but this episode highlights the gap that exists between the Orang Asli and health officials, and the onus is on the health officials to really ensure that there is no gap," he said according to a report in Free Malaysia Today.
“I think greater care and communication is needed to explain to the Orang Asli their condition and the risks they have through having children while suffering from anaemia,” he said.
Waythamoorthy, who oversees the Orang Asli Affairs Department (Jakoa), went on to say that having children is a deeply personal decision and the government has no intention of intruding into the personal lives of the Orang Asli.
He said the focus should be on raising awareness among the community on the anaemia and that all efforts to treat it should be exhausted before resorting to preventing pregnancy.
He added that he would be pushing for the greater involvement of NGOs to assist health officials in this area.
“As these NGOs work very closely with the community, they will prove useful in bridging the gap between the Orang Asli and health officials."
The two ministers have taken different tracks since the issue broke, with Waythamoorthy calling for a probe into the matter, and Dzulkefly (photo) saying he sees no need to investigate unless the allegations can be substantiated with proof.
The latter also said that the birth control medication was meant to avoid complications associated with anaemia.
Physician Dr Milton Lum told Malaysiakini that this response was 'pathetic', saying that "the allegations are very serious and merit an investigation."
He questioned whether there was consent to the contraception administered, irrespective of whether it was oral or injection, and also if such methods were the best ways of treating anaemia.
On Tuesday, representatives from five Orang Asli villages submitted a memorandum to the government at Parliament on, among others, complaints about the supply of birth control pills to the community without sufficient details.
This was followed by explosive revelations on Wednesday from Nora Kantin, a Temiar villager from Kampung Lambok in Gua Musang.
She told Malaysiakini the women in her village were threatened by nurses and told that they must take birth control, either in the form of pills or injections, failing which their medical cards would be confiscated, which would impact on their access to medication and future appointments.
"Newlyweds among the community are especially targeted and forced to take the injections after having just one child," she said.