I am on the case, Zahid assures 137 Orang Asli seeking to nullify Islam status over alleged forced conversion
KUALA LUMPUR, March 28 — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has given his assurance that the religious status of 137 Orang Asli will be resolved soon.
He said there will be a detailed discussion with the Orang Asli Development Department (Jakoa) and the matter will be brought to the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) for further action.
“I will hold a detailed discussion with Jakoa director-general Sapiah Mohd Nor, who is an Orang Asli, and Deputy Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Ramli Mohd Nor who I have appointed as the secretariat chairman of the Orang Asli community development committee.
“So we will discuss this matter and bring it to Jakim’s attention to address the problem and I will ensure a next course of action,” Zahid told reporters after a Cabinet committee meeting on addressing dengue today.
He was responding to a plea by 137 Orang Asli from the Bateq Mayan community that they should be allowed to nullify their Islamic religious status following their alleged unlawful mass conversion 30 years ago.
The group have brought the matter to civil court, and through the law firm Fahri Azzat & Co, filed a writ of summons at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on September 28 last year, Malaysiakini reported yesterday.
The civil action named six defendants, namely Jakoa, its director and officer, the Pahang Islamic Religious and Malay Customs Council (Muip), the state government, and the federal government.
According to the statement of claim sighted by Malaysiakini, the plaintiffs alleged that the wrongful and illegal conversion was carried out at their home in Kampung Benchah Kelubi, Merapoh, Kuala Lipis, Pahang, in April 1993.
The plaintiffs claimed that two village leaders were asked by a Jakoa representative to convert to Islam and also to get the other villagers to do the same, Malaysiakini reported.
They alleged that when the villagers refused, an officer from the Orang Asli Department had issued threats, including barring them from the village, destroying their houses and crops, and chasing down and torturing them if they attempted to flee to the mountains.