Orang Asli unaware about “new disease”


By S. Harrish

ORANG Asli communities in remote areas have remained largely unaffected by the Covid-19 situation that is gripping the rest of the nation.

However, activist say many of them were still in the dark about the extent of the outbreak.

“In fact, weddings are still being carried out here and there,” Tijah Yak Chopil, from the Semai tribe told FreeMalaysiaToday.

Although there are no cases yet in these rural areas so far, she said there were also no education or health campaigns on the issue at villages.

Salmiah Anai from the Temuan group at Kampung Sungai Raya in Seremban said her community only receives information through word of mouth or from WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms.

“There are absolutely no awareness campaigns here,” she said, adding that there is also a lot of confusion about the issue.

She said activities and large gatherings are still being held, with many people coming from far away to join in celebrations.

Orang Asli expert Alberto Gomes said the people in the interior are mostly unaware of the virus.

“Last Sunday, I visited an Orang Asli village in Selangor. The people knew about the spread of a ‘new disease’, but at that time the number of people infected in Malaysia was low.”

Colin Nicholas from Center for Orang Asli Concerns meanwhile welcomed the move by the Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) to ban outsiders from entering villages in the Peninsula to prevent the spread of the virus.

“That is a positive, correct measure to take,” he said.

He also cautioned against exposing the Orang Asli to people from affected areas, warning that they have relatively low resistance to infections.

“It could be very damaging.”

He suggested that the government use platforms such as Orang Asli radio channel Asyik fm to raise awareness about the outbreak.