WASHINGTON: The police and other agencies involved in the search for the missing Orang Asli children in the jungles of Kelantan should not be blamed for the delay in finding them.

Expressing sadness over the tragedy, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said those involved in the search-and-rescue (SAR) mission had done their best.

However, when told that efforts to locate the missing children only seemed to have gone into full swing after he visited families of the missing children on Sept 28, more than a month after they were reported lost, Zahid said: “I only ordered for the search area to be widened and the operation to continue until (the children) were found.

“I also ordered that the Senoi Praaq police unit be deployed to help. I believe they played a big part in finding the children as they know the terrain well,” he said, adding other agencies involved in the search should also be credited for their efforts.

Senoi Praaq is an elite unit of the police made up of Orang Asli and its members are considered one of the finest jungle fighting forces due to their familiarity with jungle surroundings.

Zahid, who is also home minister, said it was unfair for people to point fingers and expect agencies involved in the search to shoulder the blame for their inability to find the children quicker.

He said this when asked to comment on claims that efforts to locate the missing Orang Asli children did not seem too have been treated with urgency by the authorities.

International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, who is Kelantan Umno liaison committee chairman, had been quoted as saying that an investigation should be carried out to identify problems that had caused the SAR operations to take too long to find the children, and to ensure that such an incident would not recur.

Zahid, who was speaking to reporters here at the end of his four-day official visit, said the Education Ministry should look into the location of the children’s hostel to ensure similar incidents did not recur.

“The hostel for the Orang Asli children, in this case, is located opposite the school.

“Maybe they (the Education Ministry) should see whether it is possible to have it at the school compound for better control of the students’ movement.

“This also goes for Orang
Asli schools nationwide. We must ensure they have better infrastructure.”

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