Death of an Orang Asli child – is blood on our hands?

    These are NOT the missing seven Orang Asli children, but if they do go missing, would the nation stand up?

    The decomposed remains of a girl were found 500 metres from an Orang Asli school, and were identified as those of eight-year-old Sasa Sobrie, one of the seven children who went missing 47 days ago.

    Malaysians must ask whether we are at fault due to our apathy. As Sasa’s parents break down, we must search ourselves for our inaction over what has befallen such an innocent soul.

    Nothing can be more devastating than the death of a child, more so when we are without a single clue of the cause of her disappearance and death.

    On August 23, the seven children including Sasa, Norieen,10, Mirsudiar Aluj, 11, Ika Ayel, nine, eight-year-old Haikal and Linda Rosli, and Juvina David, seven, fled into the jungles nearby to escape punishment for swimming in the nearby river without permission.

    Yet, only after three days the seven Orang Asli children went missing from Sekolah Kebangsaan Tohoi and after much pleading from the families, did the authorities start searching with a small team of soldiers.

    SK Tohoi is about 50km from Gua Musang, Kelantan, and is only accessible by four-wheel drives and motorcycles. The children were staying at the hostel when attending the school.

    And only after two weeks, upon more calls by society, did the authorities send in more enforcement, but it almost seemed trudging that the authorities carried out the search.

    The mother of two of the missing children, Midah Angah, lamented in an interview days after they went missing that the search efforts were started too late.

    “I think the efforts came too late. I believe my children are dead because they do not have the skills to stay this long in the jungle,” she is reported to have said in an interview.

    On top of that, while they were missing, the school expelled the children from the school.

    The Nur Alert which was set up when eight year old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin was murdered on September 16, 2007, was not even triggered for the seven Orang Asli children. (One must also remember that the murderer of Nurin Jazlin was never caught and is still roaming free, despite the police having gone to London to get the CCTV footage examined.)

    Many other children are also still missing.

    The case of the seven Orang Asli children is indeed a mystery and a bigger puzzle is the way the authorities are dragging their feet over it.

    It also has to be pointed out that the decomposed remains of the young girl from the river was not found by any soldier or police personnel but by the villagers themselves, for they have not stopped searching from the time the children were missing.

    The question is then, were the soldiers and police missing the clues?

    The fact that there seemed to be such a lackadaisical attitude over the missing children tells us exactly where the Orang Asli stands in our society, despite us claiming to be a civilised nation.

    Too often have we seen this, not only in the missing children’s case, but also in the way the government and society tend to infringe on the Orang Asli, just because they do not have any economic power or do not push their way through to get their rights.

    It is just devastating to realise that there is much difference if one is an Orang Asli child or the child of a VIP politician, even today when caste and ranks were supposed to be irrelevant.

    Today’s and the coming days’ events will show if our hearts are indeed made of stone, as the parents of the seven children cry their hearts out and come to terms with the loss of their dear ones, only because Malaysians did not seem to care.