Hush money? Forced to take logger cash, Sungai Siput Orang Asli pass on RM15,000 to MACC

John Bunyan
Representatives of 10 Orang Asli families from Jalong in Sungai Siput pose for pictures with copies of the report in front of the MACC office in Ipoh October 9, 2019. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, Oct 9 — Ten Orang Asli families from Jalong in Sungai Siput, Perak snubbed a whopping RM15,000 in cold, hard cash allegedly given to them by representatives of a logging firm operating near their village since July.

Instead, they took the money, which they said was forced on them, to the state office of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) here today.

Villager Mat Seri Pandak, representing the 10 families, told reporters outside the MACC office that the sum is only a portion of the total RM40,000 distributed to 30 families in Kampung Lawai last Thursday in the presence of a state Forestry Department officer.

“The two men called for a meeting with the villagers at the Dewan Adat on October 3. They told us that they, together with the village Tok Batin, met with the owner of the logging company and the Forestry Department officer, where the monetary gift was given to them.

“The two claimed that the meeting was held at the Sungai Siput District Forestry Office. Many did not want to take the money, but did so because they did not want any problems within the community,” Mat Seri said.

Mat Seri Pandak, a villager from Kampung Lawai in Jalong, Sungai Siput, speaks to reporters in front of the MACC office in Ipoh October 9, 2019. — Picture by Farhan Najib

He said each family member got between RM50 and RM470.

The Orang Asli added that the two men had promised villagers another sum of RM40,000 if the Perak government does not crack down on the logging project in Jalong.

Mat Seri said hopes the MACC will look into the Orang Asli concerns and investigate the logging company.

He said a police report on the matter was filed on Monday at the Simpang Jalong police station.

“Hopefully, after our report, more families from our village will surrender the money to the MACC. We also hope MACC will investigate the report lodged with them,” he said.

Kuasa field officer Shazni Rashid speaks to reporters in front of the MACC office in Ipoh October 9, 2019. — Picture by Farhan Najib

Shazni Rashid, a field officer with Kumpulan Aktivis Sahabat Alam (Kuasa), who was also present today, told reporters the environmental watchdog has sent a letter to Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu asking him to put an end to the logging activity in the area.

Kuasa, which has been helping the Kampung Lawai villagers, suspects the logging activities to be polluting Sungai Korbu, the main water source for Sungai Siput and the source of sustenance for the Orang Asli.

“We sent a letter last month asking Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu to intervene in the matter and we have sent another similar letter today,” Shazni said.

Perak Forestry Department director Datuk Mohamed Zin Yusop told Malay Mail he had no information on the matter when contacted today.

“However, the department will check on the allegation,” he added.

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