PETALING JAYA: The Department of Orang Asli Development dismissed accusations that it was slow in searching for the missing pupils near Gua Musang.
Its director-general Datuk Hasnan Hassan said its state officers had been on standby since the first day the children disappeared.
“These are just baseless allegations as we are here working closely with other government agencies,” he said.
“We have mobilised all our officers to ensure the safety of the children.”
Rural and Regional Development Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, when contacted, said a detailed report would be released by the department today.
Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) coordinator Dr Colin Nicholas criticised local authorities over their initial efforts to locate the children. He claimed that they should have sought the help of orang asli trekkers earlier.
“When someone gets lost in the forest, the first thing you should do is to hire the local orang asli trekker but they were only roped in after 10 days,” he said when contacted.
He said family members were unhappy at being accused of hiding the children in the kampung.
“Why would they do that? Shouldn’t they be focusing on trying to find them instead of playing the blame game?
“The family members claimed that authorities conducted a check at each of the household to find whether some of them were trying to hide the children,” he said.
Mystical factors seem to play on the mind of those involved.
Civil Defence Department officer Mohd Yussalmi Mohd Yusoff was reported to have said that he was physically and emotionally “disturbed” by paranormal elements during a search and rescue operation in the same area in 2009.
“We were supposed to reach our camp in Agas at 6pm on the last day but we ended up going in circles as we could not find the route.
“It was as if something had ‘closed’ the route,” Yussalmi was quoted as saying in a newspaper yesterday.
Orang asli guide Angah Chaki believed there was a possibility that the children had been abducted by tenrog.
Tenrog is orang asli lingo for orang bunian or supernatural beings of local folklore.
“The jungle has many spirits,” said Angah.
He said the tenrog usually kept the children for a week.
“But in this case, the kids have been lost for more than two weeks,” Angah said, adding that this was why the incident was so puzzling.