Waytha says to wait for post-mortem report as doubts linger over Orang Asli deaths

Yiswaree Palansamy
Hazmat personnel from the Kelantan Fire and Rescue Department collect air samples at the Kuala Koh Orang Asli settlement in Gua Musang June 11, 2019. — Bernama pic

SUBANG JAYA, Sept 13 — The national unity and social wellbeing minister urged the public to be patient and not jump to conclusions concerning the sudden deaths of the Orang Asli in Kelantan after a foreign news report questioned the government’s claim of a measles outbreak.

P. Waytha Moorthy said to wait for the post mortem report on the June deaths of the Batek tribe members in Gua Musang, which has yet to be released two months on.

“I think the health minister already issued a statement after The Guardian’s report that the post-mortem report will be out soon. Let’s wait until the post-mortem report is out.

“I really am not aware as to the reasons,” Waytha told reporters when asked about the long wait for the autopsy report.

Waytha replied in the affirmative when asked to confirm that the deaths of several of the Batek tribe members could not conclusively be attributed to measles, despite the Health Ministry’s previous assertion.

P. Waytha Moorthy gives a press conference after visiting the Wawasan School Complex in Subang Jaya September 13, 2019. — Picture by Choo Choy May

Last week, The Observer, a sister publication of UK newspaper The Guardian, cited a group of Malaysian private doctors group accusing the government of a cover-up over the Batek tribe’s deaths.

According to the president of the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia Dr Steven Chow, chemical poisoning, especially manganese, could be one of the contributing reasons due to the tribe’s affected immunity.

The Observer reported that private testing conducted by the group showed unhealthy levels of metals, including manganese, and even faecal material in the Batek’s sole water supply.

According to the report, one water source in the village even contained 25 times the limit of manganese deemed as healthy for human consumption by the Health Ministry’s own standard.

The doctors group was reported to have submitted its findings to the Health Ministry and described the tribe’s village in Kuala Koh a “death trap”.

The Health Ministry is expected to present a full report on the deaths to the Cabinet next week.

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