Don't repeat history over orang asli schoolkids deaths

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 25 Aug 2018

PETALING JAYA: Three years on, grieving families of the seven orang asli children who disappeared from a remote school are again urging the government to build primary schools within their village and other orang asli villages for children’s safety.

Families of the victims have stopped sending their other children to school altogether after the incident occurred in 2015 in Pos Tohoi, Kelantan, as they were still traumatised by the tragedy, which claimed five lives.

Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan committee member Jamali Ayau said they were making the demand because no one could guarantee the safety of the children staying in remote schools.

“What we see in remote schools is that the wardens do not look after these children,” he claimed in a press conference yesterday.

The orang asli last made the appeal in January 2016.

Schools in the interiors are few and far between and involves travelling long distances from orang asli villages. Orang asli children as young as seven have to stay at school hostels in order to get an education.

Ayel Ajib, 50, who is the father of deceased Ika Ayel, nine, said before the tragedy, they were willing to send their young children to remote primary schools for the sake of a better future but decided against it after the tragedy.

“We are too afraid of sending them to school,” he said.

Ayel also said they submitted the request for schools to the Human Rights Commission and hoped that the government would heed it.

On Aug 23, 2015, six girls and one boy – all pupils of SK Tohoi in Gua Musang – ran away from the school hostel and into a nearby forest as they feared punishment after allegations of some pupils bathing in a river without permission.

After almost 50 days of extensive search and rescue, only Norieen Yaakob, then 11, and Miksudiar Aluj then 12, were found alive on the riverbank of Sungai Perias on Oct 9 but emaciated.

Juvina David, seven; Haikal Yaakob, eight; Linda Rosli, eight; Sasa Sobrie, eight; and Ika died.

Norieen and Mirsudiar refused to return to school and they were no longer happy children, said activist and human rights lawyer Siti Kasim, who is assisting the families pursue legal action over their children’s deaths.

Six separate civil suits were filed at the Kota Baru High Court on Aug 13 against the government and eight public officers for negligence and for breach of statutory duties.

“The families are seeking general, special and aggravated damages,” said Gokul Radhakrishnan, one of the lawyers on the case.

The case management has been fixed for Sept 18 at the court.

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