JHEOA was set up to keep Orang Asli as backward community
The takeover of Orang Asli hospital in Gombak by the ministry of health shows the complicity and lack of political will in caring and uplifting the Orang Asli community by the Jabatan hal ehwal orang asli (JHEOA). JHEOA is the sole department that was set up in 1953 to uplift the socio economy and quality of life of the Orang Asli community. Yet this very department which has enormous power and control over the Orang Asli community failed to provide proper and adequate medical care to them. The hospital which was set up by the British in 1957 was taken over by ministry of health due to the deteriorating standards of medical care and facilities at the institution under JHEOA. A visit to the JHEOA website will display their grand vision and mission to uplift and develop the Orang Asli community into a premier community. But in reality JHEOA can’t even provide proper medical care to the sick and malnourished children. JHEOA has clearly failed in its duties.
All the allegation of neglect and sub-standard care and service to Orang Asli community by the management of JHEOA is due to the fact that JHEOA is not administered by Orang Asli community or activists who care for the Orang Asli community. The UMNO led government has clearly denigrated on the Orang Asli affairs. In the long run Orang Asli community will only benefit if the UMNO led government eradicate the racist policies and supremacist attitudes of the management of JHEOA. As a leopard can never change its spots, so do UMNO can never drop its racist and jingoistic attitudes.
Orang Asli community does not have political voice to champion their cause. Their sole guardian JHEOA does not have any policy or plan to preserve Orang Asli heritage, culture and beliefs. They are just interested in assimilating Orang Asli community into Muslim Malays which is resisted and opposed by Orang Asli community. The Orang Asli tradition, culture and heritage were all sent to the museum systematically. UMNO led government closed one eye in the marginalization process of Orang Asli by JHEOA for the past 54 years. Respected Orang Asli leaders like Colin Nicholas and Tijah Yok Chopil were always kept on the sideline and outside the decision making circles. UMNO yes men were appointed as community leaders.
Under JHEOA, 76.9% of orang asli are living in poverty whereas the national average is 6.5%. More than 33% orang asli are hardcore poor compared to the national average of 1.4%. Malaysia’s infant mortality rate is 8.9% compared to 51.7% for Orang Asli infant mortality rate. One Suhakam report in 2006, points out that the dropout rate from standard I to form 5 is 94%. If 100 students enroll in standard 1, only 6 out of them will reach form 5. Standard 1 to form 1 the dropout rate is 43.9%. All this happened right under the JHEOA nose. The Orang Asli woes were never addressed till now and the community continues to languish behind other Malaysians.
Therefore the way forward for Orang Asli community is get them out of the JHEOA grip. Till date the ministry of rural and regional development could not give an acceptable answer as to why no one Orang Asli is appointed as head of JHEOA? Much has been researched debated and written about the Orang Asli plight but there is no change on the ground for Orang Asli people. This community is held captive by the BN government for voting purpose. Selangor government is more amiable was able to endear themselves to Orang Asli community. Therefore the PR government is the only viable alternative for this community to safeguard their traditions and heritage.