By Elizabeth Zachariah
The Malaysian Insider
September 20, 2013
Broken promises, deplorable living conditions and threats have spurred six Orang Asli from villages in Kuala Lipis, Pahang, to travel for at least 12 hours to Kuala Lumpur to testify in the Bersih People’s Tribunal.
Norman a/l Kong took two hours from his village – Kampung Pos Senderut – to the nearest tarred road, for a bus, then another eight hours from the road to KL while Kampung Regang’s Sani a/l Sobang took longer.
They are one of hundreds of villagers from deep within Kuala Lipis, which comes under the Cameron Highlands constituency, who are disheartened with the lack of amenities that were promised to them time and time again by the Barisan Nasional (BN) candidates before every general election.
Worse, the villagers claim that they were “threatened” and “forced” to vote for BN.
“After a meeting with the Orang Asli Development Department, our village head came back and told us that we would be arrested by police if we did not vote for BN,” Sani, 33, said.
He revealed that prior to that, he had gathered some villagers and urged them to vote for the opposition in the 13th general election.
Sani testifying during the session today at the Bersih People’s Tribunal. The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 20, 2013.Sani testifying during the session today at the Bersih People’s Tribunal. The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 20, 2013.”I told them that I have had enough of BN’s promises that were never kept and I wanted to vote for a change.
“But after the village head’s meeting with us, many of my friends, who had agreed not to vote for BN, changed their minds out of fear,” Sani told The Malaysian Insider today.
Norman added that the candidate for the ruling coalition, had always promised water, electricity, better houses for his village.
“We have been listening to the same promises being made since Merdeka but until now, we are still without electricity, we still live in bamboo houses and we still get water from a river nearby.
“We are concerned about our children’s education as they cannot study properly at night. Many of them drop out as it takes two hours to go to school and another two to get back,” the father-of-three said.
He disclosed that his villagers were also threatened by BN supporters to vote for them.
“They said that our healthcare and education would not be free anymore. They said we would not receive any help from them if we did not vote for them.
“I voted for them three times before this. But I don’t believe them anymore,” Norman said.
Both men, crushed by the ruling governments’ empty promises, discussed the situation with their church members in Raub, who then informed the Orang Asli about the tribunal.
“Once we heard about this, we knew we had to come here and tell of what happened in our villages,” Norman said, as his eyes glistened with tears.
Sani declared that he was not afraid of anyone when asked if he feared that there would be backlash due to his testimony at the tribunal.
“The police or the village head…I’m not scared,” he said with a wave of his hand.
Norman said he voted for the opposition despite threats that he and his family will lose certain benefits, such as free healthcare. The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 20, 2013.Norman said he voted for the opposition despite threats that he and his family will lose certain benefits, such as free healthcare. The Malaysian Insider pic by Afif Abd Halim, September 20, 2013.In his testimony yesterday, Norman named MIC president Datuk G. Palanivel, and claimed that the latter and another BN candidate for Jelai state seat had “threatened” them by saying they would be charged for education and healthcare if they lost in the election.
Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail from Umno was the BN candidate for the Jelai state seat.
“So, I voted for the candidate with the rocket sign (DAP),” he had said.
He also said the villagers were given RM20 each by Palanivel and were promised another RM80 if they voted for BN.
“Tetapi janji ini juga tidak ditepati (this promise, too, was not fulfilled),” he added. – September 20, 2013.