After a measle breakout last year that claimed 14 lives, the indigenous Bateq tribe that resides in Kelantan was left with tremendous trauma.
The mystery that shrouds Covid-19 has caused hundreds of indigenous Bateq to take their own approach by engaging in self-quarantine in the jungle for almost two months.
Like their ancestors before them, it’s a custom for the Bateqs to migrate every time a disaster, disease or death occurs. Less than a year after the measle tragedy, the Bateqs once again followed the tradition by returning to the jungle on 20 March 2020.
While most of us were at home during the first Movement Control Order (MCO) on 18 March, the Bateqs did not have to think hard and long in their efforts to safeguard all villagers from the threat of the virus.
Instead, all 304 people from three villages in Lebir Post which are Kampung Kuala Koh, Kampung Aring 5 and Kampung Machang once again revived the tradition by heading to the jungle 7 kilometres away.
“We got scared and worried when we heard about the Covid-19 outbreak. After the government announced the MCO, the villagers and I decided to quarantine ourselves in the forest. It was enough that last year we were traumatised by the deadly measles,” said 50-year old Chieftain, Raina Anjang to Sinar Harian.
On the day of the evacuation, the villagers were divided into three groups out of 74 families, so that their temporary home was not overcrowded. According to Sinar Harian, the location was ideal for fishing and kids to go for a swim and have fun.
After more than six weeks of MCO, which was ahead of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Raina and the villagers went back to their homes in the village after hearing that the transmission of Covid-19 infection has been controlled by the government.
Although the nomadic life tradition has been long abandoned, Raina said this move wasn’t just about curbing the Covid-19 infections but to teach young people and children that these practices and traditions of their ancestors should be maintained and preserved.
There are 1,649 indigenous people of the Bateq tribe living in Kelantan, Pahang and Terengganu and around the world. They are nomadic hunters and gatherers. However, some 30 years ago, they have gradually abandoned the practice of nomadic life.
According to Wikipedia, due to possible logging in the areas, the Bateq are largely confined to Taman Negara National Park and the surrounding region.