Residents of Kampung Gedung and Kampung Chang Lama, Sungai Gepai, Perak claim to have been barred from leaving their villages to buy food from nearby Bidor town.
This is because they share the only road leading to the town with other Orang Asli villages that are currently under an enhanced movement control order (EMCO) until August 24.
The residents claimed that while Kampung Senta, Kampung Chang Baru, and Kampung Sanding have been eligible for food aid during the EMCO period, Kampung Gedung and Kampung Chang Lama have not.
“We are not begging for food but if (the authorities) are not allowing us to go out to get food but are also not providing us with food aid, how are we meant to survive?” asked Kampung Chang Lama resident Rizuan Tempek.
He said his family has run out of dry foods such as sugar, rice, and cooking oil.
He also claimed that the Kampung Chang Lama village chief has complained to the Department of Orang Asli Development (Jakoa) and the Health Ministry about this.
“Both parties informed him that Kampung Gedung and Kampung Chang Lama are not EMCO areas and are allowed to go out and buy goods.
“They told him residents should just inform the police officers at the roadblock. However, the officers in charge still prevented them from going out to buy necessities,” he said.
Rizuan added that the village chief even requested for Jakoa and the Health Ministry to certify that their villages were not EMCO areas, but both said they were unauthorised to issue such a letter.
On Aug 17, Perak and Kedah Jakoa director Harulnizam Abdul Rahman said food boxes would be sent to villages in Bidor, including the ones that are not under EMCO, following an article by The Star claiming that residents from Kampung Chang Baru were appealing for more food supplies from Jakoa.
Harulnizam also denied that Orang Asli were barred from leaving their villages to buy necessities, insisting that those without wrist tags were allowed to go out.
However, Rizuan stressed that the food crisis would not have been an issue had the villagers been allowed to leave the area.
"If they are going to impose EMCO restrictions onto non-EMCO areas, then they should change their policies on food aid distributed to these areas as well," he said.
He further claimed that the police prevented the villagers from attending their vaccination appointments on Aug 13, which led to some not going for their appointments on Aug 14 out of fear they would not be allowed through.
“This is contrary to the ruling that residents in EMCO areas are allowed to go for their vaccinations.
“The Health Ministry gave us the green light that we were allowed to leave the area for vaccinations, but when confronted with the police, we were told otherwise,” he said.
Meanwhile, Perak police chief Mior Faridalathrash Wahid denied blocking the villagers from leaving their area.
“Movement in and out of the area is granted to villagers without a wrist tag, do not have symptoms and do not go out in large numbers,” he said.
He added that new vaccination dates have been provided to the affected Orang Asli villagers by the district health office.
Eight deaths in Bidor subdistrict
On Aug 12, Mior Faridalathrash told reporters that 784 Orang Asli residents in Mukim Bidor (Bidor subdistrict) tested positive for Covid-19, and eight succumbed to the virus.
The following day, the Perak Health Department issued a statement that referred to the 784 positive cases and eight deaths as covering the entire Batang Padang district.
Rizuan claimed that some of the shops in Bidor town began to deny service to Orang Asli villagers following Mior’s claim.
“The announcement brought a negative impact on the Orang Asli community in Bidor when the eight who passed away due to the virus were said to be from the entire Batang Padang district.
“As far as I am aware, Bidor only had one death from the virus and it was a resident from Kampung Senta.
“However, following the announcement (of the deaths), some shop owners are assuming everyone from the Orang Asli community is Covid-19 positive,” he said.
Rizuan said residents in Kampung Chang Lama were caught in limbo over misinformation that they were also an EMCO area.
The National Security Council issued a statement on August 9 that Kampung Chang was an EMCO area, without clarifying whether it was Kampung Chang Baru or Kampung Chang Lama, Sungai Gepai.
The Kampung Chang Lama residents were only made aware that they were not an EMCO area after clarifying with Jakoa, said Rizuan.
Malaysiakini is trying to contact the state Jakoa for a response to the situation.