I have never said that the Orang Asli, who are the first inhabitants of the country, are not citizens, but asked whether they are full citizens of Malaysia

Before I came on stage, I received a call telling me that the latest Barisan Nasional dirty tactics in the Cameron Highlands by-election is to accuse me of defaming the Orang Asli people by declaring that they are not citizens of the country.

I have never said that the Orang Asli, who are the first inhabitants of the country, are not citizens, but asked whether they are full citizens of Malaysia.

This seems to be such a stupid question for every Malaysian is a full citizen of Malaysia.

But the question that demanded answer is how can anyone claim to be a full citizen of Malaysia when he or she is denied of the most basic infrastructures whether proper access road, clean water, electricity; deprived of the most elementary needs whether education, health and medical care, housing and economic opportunities; and most important of all, denied of their traditional land rights.

It took me two hours to travel the 30km “roti canai” road to Pos Lenjang – when it could be travelled in 20 to 30 minutes. It was an unforgettable and most agonizing journey on probably the longest and worst “roti canai” road not only in Cameron Highlands but the whole country, a road which served some 20 Orang Asli kampongs.

Why hasn’t the former Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is the campaigner-in-chief of the Barisan Nasional in the by-election, visited Pos Lenjang and see for himself whether the Orang Asli in the area could claim to be full citizens of Malaysia with such atrocious infrastructures and basic services for the Orang Asli?

If the Orang Asli are full citizens of Malaysia, then there is no need for a Special Department for the Development of Orang Asli (JAKOA) to bring them into the national mainstream of development.

But after sixty years, is it acceptable for the conditions of the Orang Asli to be so pathetic and atrocious? In my visits to the various Orang Asli kampongs, I asked whether JAKOA had achieved its mission and objectives, and the general view is that it had not achieved even fifty percent of its objectives in sixty years.

Yes, I congratulate the Barisan Nasional candidate, Ramli Mohd Nor for having risen to the high level of an ASP in the police force, but it is more a testimony of failure and not success to make Orang Asli full citizens of Malaysia?

Why after sixty years, there is only one ASP. Why is there not a single Commissioner of Police or even Deputy Commissioner of Police among the Orang Asli?

What about the Orang Asli in the higher echelons of the other government departments?

After sixty years, JAKOA itself has only got an Orang Asli to be Director-General for eight months, when the position should have been held by an Orang Asli for the last few decades.

At present, less than 22 per cent of the JAKOA staff are Orang Asli. This is not progress, and failure of mission of JAKOA.

In 2013, SUHAKAM released a report entitled “Report of the National Inquiry into the Land Rights of Indigenous Peoples” and made recommendations, one of which was to conduct an “independent and comprehensive review” of the role of JAKOA to address its various weaknesses.

None of the Suhakam’s eighteen recommendations to improve the plight of Orang Asli was Implemented or considered.

The Cameron Highlands by-election has become not a battle between Pakatan Harapan candidate M. Manogaran vs Barisan Nasional candidate Ramli Mohd Nor but between Manogaran vs Najib Razak.

Najib’s motive in the Cameron Highlands by-election is clear – to use a BN victory in Cameron Highlands as a launching pad for a of national “Save Najib” campaign, culminating in the next general election in 2023 for Najib to stage a political comeback and like Tun Mahathir to become the Prime Minister in Malaysia for a second time.

If BN loses the Cameron Highlands by-election, then Najib’s politiccal comeback plan will be reduced to ashes on Saturday night. Let the people of Cameron Highlands give this “coup de grace” to Najib on Saturday.

(Speech by DAP MP for Iskandar Puteri Lim Kit Siang at the Ponggol Festival of the Persatuan Kebajikan Kongu Cameron Highlands at Kampong Raja on Thursday, January 24, 2019 at 9.30 pm)

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