Consumers’ Association of Penang turns 50 with a new president, but poorer

CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader said they have funds to last the organisation for only another two to three years if they do not get more funding soon. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader said they have funds to last the organisation for only another two to three years if they do not get more funding soon. ― Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Jan 11 ― Penang’s most vocal non-governmental organisation, the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP), is half a century-old today, just eight months after bidding goodbye to its long-standing president, the late SM Mohamed Idris.

However, the NGO known for frequently raising concerns on all consumer and environmental issues, is now facing financial constraints due to lack of funding.

CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader, who was elected to the position after Mohamed Idris passed away in May last year, said they have funds to last the organisation for only another two to three years if they do not get more funding soon.

“We rely fully on public donations, research works commissioned by government agencies and one-off, project-based grants,” he said, adding that these were barely enough.

The organisation has about 40 workers to handle consumer complaints and research.

Mohideen said CAP barely makes ends meet; most of its staff are paid less than RM2,000 a month.

“We may be struggling financially, but we have continued with our research work in which we focus on the climate emergency we are facing now and our fight for consumer rights,” he said.

For the first time in decades, CAP now has a donation box placed prominently at the reception desk in its office at Kennedy Road here.

Mohideen said CAP used to receive grants from international organisations and foundations, but this stopped a few years ago.

He said the international organisations’ focus is mostly on helping third world countries, and they now consider Malaysia a developed country, which is therefore ineligible to receive any more funds.

Other than those grants, CAP used to sell hundreds of its consumer-related booklets and books on topics such as health, environment and consumer rights to finance its work that used to earn it a tidy sum.

Mohideen said CAP could make up to RM100,000 from the sale of its books, which were priced between RM5 and RM10 each.

But this source too is dwindling due to a change in habits, prompting CAP to figure out other means.

“Now, people are no longer interested in our books due to the internet, so maybe we might consider changing to selling e-books instead,” he said.

Mohideen believes CAP has contributed tremendously to the country in improving its people’s safety, health, lifestyle, and environment through awareness over the decades.

One of them is the Environmental Quality Act 1974, which he believes was enacted due to pressure from CAP through its various exposes on environmental issues in its then-popular newsletter, Utusan Pengguna.

He said CAP had also pressured the government to introduce compulsory licenses for Hepatitis C and HIV medication, which helped lower their prices to be more affordable.

“We have championed so many issues over the years that led to stricter laws and more awareness on issues that affected the environment and we will continue to do so in the years to come,” he said.

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