KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 – The roti canai, a staple diet for all Malaysians anytime of the day, will never sound the same again with DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang revealing how it has come to represent the corrupt former Barisan Nasional government among the Orang Asli folk in Cameron Highlands.
In a speech following the opening of the Pakatan Harapan Cameron Highlands by-election ops room at Pos Sinderut, Cameron Highlands, Lim spoke of the feedback he had received from the locals during an earlier visit last July.
“I received an education on corruption during my dialogue with the Orang Aslis in Pos Sinderut from 14 villages in Sinderut as well as Pos Manson when I visited the area in July, for it was then that I first heard of ‘roti canai’ roads.
“They were referring to the substandard roads that had resulted from poor workmanship and corruption. These new roads rapidly deteriorate as there was only a thin film of cement on top to hide the shoddy work.
“There must be no more ‘roti canai’ roads in Cameron Highlands or anywhere else under a New Malaysia which is being built by Pakatan Harapan after the 14th General Election,” the Iskandar Puteri MP said.
Orang Asli, still forgotten in a New Malaysia?
Lim said the Orang Aslis should cease to be a neglected and forgotten community in Malaysia.
“What all Orang Asli communities throughout Malaysia need are proper roads, water and electricity, schools and easy access to medical care, housing as well as decent jobs and protection of their customary land rights.
“It is time for the Orang Asli community to take their place in the national mainstream of Malaysian development and stop being the forgotten or downtrodden community,” Lim said.
He, however, did not provide any details on what measures the Pakatan Harapan government has already taken for the Orang Asli community since taking over Putrajaya following the 14th General Election (GE14) more than seven months ago.
The Cameron Highlands parliamentary constituency will see a by-election take place on January 26, with the nomination day set for January 12.
The seat became vacant after the Election Court ruled on November 30 that vote-buying had led to the Barisan Nasional candidate, MIC vice-president C Sivarraajh’s win in GE14.
Sivarraajh won the seat in a five-cornered fight getting 10,307 votes. However, his majority against his closest challenger, DAP’s M. Manogran was only 597 votes.
Manogaran, Deputy Minister for Water, Land and Natural Resources Tengku Zulpuri Shah Raja Puri, Bentong MP Wong Tack and Pahang State Assemblyman for Tanah Rata Chiong Yoke Kong and State Assemblyman for Tras Chow Yu Hui were also present at the PH election operations centre opening.
Orang Asli, the first inhabitants, deserve better
Referring to Cameron Highlands having the highest ratio of Orang Asli voters – 20% – of any constituency in the peninsula, Lim called for them to reject BN now, after years of neglect.
“For six decades, the Umno and Barisan Nasional government had failed the Orang Asli communities, for they are left far behind in the mainstream of national development, remaining forgotten and downtrodden after more than six decades of Merdeka.
“It is time for the Orang Asli, who are the first inhabitants of this country, to ‘come in from the cold’ and take their place in the national mainstream of Malaysian development to demand justice, freedom, integrity and democracy,” he said.
Orang Asli conference during PH by-election campaign
In what could be seen as part of the Pakatan Harapan by-election campaign in the constituency, Lim said that a National Orang Asli Conference should be held in Cameron Highlands next month.
“The conference should discuss and formulate a blueprint for Orang Asli upliftment in the New Malaysia of Pakatan Harapan.
“If such a National Orang Asli Conference could be held in Cameron Highlands next month, it would also be a most appropriate occasion to honour the score of Orang Asli in Cameron Highlands who had bravely stood up for the country by being witnesses of truth, justice and democracy to speak up against bribery, money-politics and voter-threatening in the Cameron Highlands election case,” Lim said.
However, the holding of such a conference using government funds, that is timed to coincide with a by-election where 20% of the voters are Orang Asli could also be seen as an abuse of power akin to the tactics used by the previous BN regime, especially if the resulting blueprint promises many benefits for the Orang Asli.