Re­marks may not go down well with Orang Asli, says an­a­lyst

New Straits Times - - NEWS - T.N. ALAGESH TANAHRATA [email protected]

PAKATAN Hara­pan has pos­si­bly placed its Orang Asli vote bank at risk fol­low­ing the ut­ter­ance of neg­a­tive state­ments ahead of nom­i­na­tion day.

Last week, PH can­di­date M. Manog­a­ran said Barisan Na­sional’s move to field an Orang Asli can­di­date would not se­cure Malay votes as Malays would not even buy kuih from Orang Asli ven­dors.

Manog­a­ran, a lawyer, had apol­o­gised for his re­marks.

On the eve of nom­i­na­tion day, PKR Se­na­tor Bob Manolan Mohd was re­ported to have “threat­ened” Orang Asli vil­lage head­men (Tok Batin) in Pos Be­tau to sup­port the PH can­di­date, or end up los­ing their salaries and po­si­tions.

Orang Asli votes are de­ci­sive as they com­prise 22 per cent or 6,896 of the 32,009 peo­ple qual­i­fied to cast their votes on Jan 26.

Univer­siti Pu­tra Malaysia’s Fac­ulty of Hu­man Ecol­ogy’s As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor Dr Sar­jit Singh Gill said thought­less re­marks could pose a threat to PH’s bid to end BN’s reign in the con­stituency.

BN has held the Cameron High­lands par­lia­men­tary seat through MIC since the con­stituency’s es­tab­lish­ment in 2004.

He said as politi­cians, Manog­a­ran and Bob Manolan should be care­ful with their words and be sen­si­tive when speak­ing to the Orang Asli.

He said Orang Asli chiefs were re­spected in the com­mu­nity and their opin­ions were highly re­garded.

“They (Tok Batin) con­trol the com­mu­nity and can de­ter­mine which way the votes will go... they can in­flu­ence their peo­ple to cause a vote swing.

“One must not be­lit­tle Orang Asli chiefs. They have to be re­spected as com­mu­nity lead­ers. When plan­ning de­vel­op­ment for Orang Asli, Tok Batin have to be en­gaged and must never be by­passed,” he told the New Straits Times.

Sar­jit said Manog­a­ran and Bob Manolan’s state­ments would not have gone down well with the Orang Asli.

“I be­lieve Tok Batin in other ar­eas (out­side Cameron High­lands) are also upset. Never hu­mil­i­ate or put them down.

“There is quite a chal­lenge for PH to get votes.”

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and law lec­turer from In­ter­na­tional Is­lamic Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor Dr Nik Ah­mad Ka­mal Nik Mah­mood said the Orang Asli were sen­si­tive about is­sues that could stir up emo­tions.

He said the Orang Asli might have been hope­ful that the gov­ern­ment would take care of their needs, es­pe­cially tanah adat (cus­tom­ary land). How­ever, the state­ments might af­fect some votes.

“It’s best that can­di­dates and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers be care­ful with what they say dur­ing cam­paign­ing.

“To win votes, they might get ex­cited or go over­board. So it’s best to be sen­si­tive.”

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