PETALING JAYA: Responding to criticisms about its supposed lack of empathy for the Orang Asli, the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) listed out several initiatives it has carried out to improve the lives of the Bateq in Kuala Koh.
Among them include a 14-acre community plantation for 14 households which started in 2015.
The department also plans to encourage the 56 households in the community to plant cash crops such as bananas, corn, tapioca and vegetables once the situation in Kuala Koh returns to normal.
"These crops can be a food source and also a source of income for them," it said in a statement Thursday (June 20).
In the past, the department has also worked with the rural development ministry to build 16 houses for them under a house-building programme.
Efforts are also being made to work together with NGOs and universities to clean up the Bateq living areas due to recent health threats in the village.
The department said it is also working to supply the Bateq settlement there with 24-hour electricity supply.
Jakoa was responding to a report by a local English daily on the Bateq of Kuala Koh who came to Putrajaya to demand better treatment for their people.
The plight of the Bateq in Kuala Koh was cast into the spotlight when tribe members started dying from a mysterious disease between May and June, with as many as 15 been reported dead.
On June 17, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad announced that the victims had contracted measles based on tests on 37 out of 112 people.
Post-mortem conducted on three of the dead, including a three-year-old, were found to have died of pneumonia and multiple organ failure due to complication from measles.