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Orang Asli tragedy a violation of human rights

Graphic: Orang Asli boys sit on a tree log

The recent tragedy involving Orang Asli children stems from the entrenched social and economic marginalisation faced by indigenous peoples in Malaysia

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) said in a statement that the tragedy involving the Orang Asli children in Gua Musang – with five deaths reported among seven children missing for 47 days within a kilometre of their residential school – stems directly from their social and economic marginalisation caused by the violation of their human rights.

SUHAKAM extended its deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the Orang Asli children who perished in Gua Musang after missing for nearly 50 days.

It also expressed regret that the many recommendations in its National Inquiry into the Land Rights of the Indigenous Peoples had not been acted upon. As a result, "[the] Orang Asli community continues to face immense challenges, including marginalisation".

SUHAKAM said it continues to receive complaints of abuse of Orang Asli children by teachers.

"We are appalled by the actions of teachers who abuse, bully and/or mistreat Orang Asli children in their care," SUHAKAM said in a statement.

"The Commission stands firms that discipline among children must be administered in a manner consistent with both the child's dignity and the right to protection from all forms of violence."

SUHAKAM called on the School Inspectorate and Quality Assurance Division of the Ministry of Education, which monitors the implementation of curriculum and ensures quality of teaching, to explain its findings.

Furthermore, SUHAKAM said, schools, including residential schools, have an obligation to be sensitive to the communities they serve, to care for and protect the children entrusted to them, and to be accountable to the local community they serve.

"Many Orang Asli children have no possibility of attending primary school because there were no primary schools or teachers where they lived. In most villages, the nearest functioning school was several hours away."

Suhakam noted that the Education Ministry has since closed a number of primary schools in a few Orang Asli villages, "seemingly because they were not economically feasible".

"Those schools were built within close range of several nearby villages so as to ensure that the young children would not have to be physically removed from their families and their communities and placed in residential schools."

Date: 15 October 2015

Source: SUHAKAM/Free Malaysia Today

Image credits

  1. Orang Asli boys sit on a tree log - Heng Fu Ming, Flickr; http://bit.ly/1O25wNT