Oppositions MPs cry foul over deputy minister's directive to Welfare Dept on Covid-19 food aid to selected coordinators

Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik from PKR, confirmed the letter and told Malay Mail that he had given 1,000 names to receive the food basket, but received none. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik from PKR, confirmed the letter and told Malay Mail that he had given 1,000 names to receive the food basket, but received none. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — Several Opposition MPs are crying foul, after deputy higher education minister Datuk Mansor Othman issued an official letter bearing his ministerial letterhead, directing the Penang state Welfare Department (JKM) on the distribution of food baskets to selected coordinators.

In the letter sighted by the Malay Mail, the directive was addressed to the Penang JKM director, Shaballah Zainal Abidin, with two appended lists bearing the list of selected coordinators who would be managing the distribution of the food baskets.

Mansor is the Nibong Tebal MP.

Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik from PKR, confirmed the letter and told Malay Mail that he had given 1,000 names to receive the food basket, but received none.

He alleged that state JKM staff told him that they had received “direction from the top”, to follow as they were instructed.

“As you can also see, the letter from the deputy higher education minister Datuk Mansor, has given direction to the state JKM, to only give them (food baskets) to the coordinators mentioned in the attachment of the letter.

“So the 1,000 names that we submitted, they didn't even look at the list. They have been distributing the food baskets to all those people whose names are not on the list at all,” the former tourism, arts and culture deputy minister said lamenting the “dirty politics” behind the government's initiative for the needy.

“Even JKM people said that they have no choice. They got to listen to the direction from the top and they sympathised with us, and as civil servants, they have to follow directions from the top,” he said.

He also demanded that Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Harun to explain Mansor's letter.

Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin (PKR) also shared Muhammad Bakhtiar's sentiments saying the distribution line which he accused was based on politics rather than needs.

Confirming the authenticity of the letter, he said that Penang MPs were called for a meeting on March 30 with the state JKM, which promised to give each MP 1,000 food baskets.

“So we were very happy at that time because finally, we thought that the government is going to fulfill their promises of no one being left behind and the bipartisanship to solve people's problems.

“So we cooperated and we had submitted the names of the recipients on April 6, and then suddenly this letter came,” he said, referring to Mansor's letter.

Sim said that the Opposition MPs in the state had waited for two long weeks, before realising something was amiss, after the eligible recipients began pressuring them for food items.

He said it was only later that they found out that the letter from Mansor had “hijacked” all of the food baskets in the state, which he accused, was given according to political parties.

“Our hope for bipartisanship to solve this crisis is being dashed,” he added.

Sim said that the name list of the eligible recipients was compiled by the Majlis Pengurusan Komuniti Kampung (MPKK); a government grassroots machinery, which has details of every needy household.

“I think this is a nationwide issue. All PH MPs are facing similar problems. The Perikatan Nasional (PN) parties have hijacked the food baskets and divided it among their component parties, bypassing the usual government machinery, which is JKM, the district office and MPKK,” he told Malay Mail via Whatsapp.

Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said that her office  did provide names of deserving recipients from her parliamentary constituency, but once the letter from the top came, she claimed that her office was no longer informed of the status regarding the food basket delivery, adding that no food baskets or deliveries were sent through her office.

“We would like to ensure that recipients receive the aid they badly need — as such, any political interference disrupts a smooth and transparent delivery.

“However, we continue to push for a centralised database of recipients — to ensure that no one gets left behind. This is also relevant to our eventual plan to develop a multidimensional poverty index which is reflective of current economic realities; inclusive of the adverse consequences of a pandemic in Permatang Pauh,” Nurul Izzah told Malay Mail when contacted.

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh had previously shared a chart on her Facebook, which listed the parliamentary constituencies which had received the food baskets.

Yeoh had previously publicly lamented about the lack of food baskets for her constituency, despite it being promised to all MPs.

She said that she had later received only 250, as opposed to the allocated 1,000, while some have yet to receive any.

“If you look at the chart, all the Bersatu MPs received it. Jerlun (Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir) just confirmed with me that he received 900 food baskets and Langkawi (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad) received 1,000.

“This is quite clear that Rina Harun has politicised the provision of food baskets for deserving families. The Opposition MPs have to find ways to help the poor families in their areas when the fund has already been set aside by the Ministry of Finance (MOF), to buy these food baskets,” Yeoh said.

The former Selangor State Assembly Deputy Speaker also demanded that Rina release the name list of those who were given the food baskets to be distributed.

Malay Mail has contacted Mansor and is awaiting his reply.

However, Rina when contacted by the Malay Mail, said she was unaware of the letter by Mansor.

“Not to my knowledge,” she replied when asked.

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