KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was wrong to claim that a Social Security Organisation (Socso) centre for rehabilitation services of those injured at workplaces or workers who are ill is located in the Ipoh Barat constituency, former human resources minister M. Kulasegaran said today when setting the record straight on this issue.
Kulasegaran, who is DAP’s Ipoh Barat MP, said that Najib had “insinuated” that the Socso project was suggested to be built in Ipoh Barat as he was the MP there.
But Kulasegaran noted that the decision made during his tenure as human resources minister to build the Socso project was not located in the Ipoh Barat constituency, and was driven by practical considerations to better serve Socso contributors in the northern region of Peninsular Malaysia.
“Secondly, the place suggested is not my Ipoh Barat constituency, but in Meru, which comes under the Tambun Parliamentary constituency,” Kulasegaran said in a statement today.
“The hospital and rehabilitation centre and Socso service centre that was initiated during my tenure as a human resources minister has greater social returns in the long term and has nothing to do with vested interest or my position or being an MP in a certain constituency,” he later concluded.
In explaining the logic for choosing Perak’s state capital Ipoh for Socso’s Perak Rehabilitation Centre project, Kulasegaran said the proposal was for the long-term benefit of Socso contributors and would reduce the burden on the existing Socso rehabilitation centre in Melaka, which was highly in demand due to the positive results of its rehabilitation programme for injured workers.
“Socso contributors in the north will patronise the centre in Ipoh while those in the south can opt for the one in Melaka,” the DAP national vice-chairman said.
Kulasegaran said the Perak rehabilitation centre should be in a strategic location in view of the industrial state recording the highest number of accidents in Malaysia.
He added that the centre is envisioned to have state-of-the-art technology such as neuro-robotic technology for spinal cord injury patients where walking again was previously not a possibility, and also proton beam therapy technology to give cancer patients a second chance as cancer is one of the causes for workers to be invalid.
“This centre would also encourage health tourism that would help in increasing the revenue for Socso and in long run provide better social security benefits for workers. One must keep in mind that Socso rates paid by employee and employers have not change over decades,” he said.
In further responses to Najib, Kulasegaran said the Socso service centre in Ipoh set up during his tenure was intended to ensure that Malaysians have access to government services in the areas where they live, noting that this concept does not only apply to Ipoh but also to the whole country to enable the public and government-linked institutions to work closely to resolve issues.
“In my tenure as Human Resources Minister, I created a work culture of reaching out to people in need rather than waiting for them come to offices. Not every worker has access to the internet, or some would like to clarify matters in person, especially those from the B40,” he said.
Kulasegaran said it was puzzling that Najib had questioned these Socso initiatives in the latter’s Facebook post.
In a Facebook post defending Umno’s Jerantut MP Datuk Ahmad Nazlan Idris’s announcement of a RM100 million project by the Malaysian Rubber Board (MRB) in the Jerantut constituency in Pahang after being appointed as MRB chairman, Najib had highlighted Kulasegaran’s Socso initiatives.
But Kulasegaran indicated Najib’s Facebook post was a false comparison, pointing out the difference between a social project such as the Socso initiatives and the act of “coming out with project just after a month being appointed as a chairman of a government-linked company where resources could be better used to protect jobs and business”.
“Being political in comparing issues that looks similar is a normal political gimmick, but one has to look at social impacts of a particular project and how it will actually help the people in the long run,” he said.
Yesterday, DAP’s Seputeh MP and former primary industry minister Teresa Kok accused newly-appointed MRB chairman Ahmad Nazlan of rushing a “non-essential” mega project that would cost RM100 million in his constituency about a month after his appointment and questioned its timing amid the Covid-19 pandemic and current economic conditions, while also highlighting that previous tightened financial procedures under the former Pakatan Harapan administration meant that such big projects involving public funds would take at least more than a year to be approved.
Kok highlighted this incident as an example on why the government should not make political appointments to government-linked companies or institutions, pointing out examples of unnecessary and wasteful projects under previous Barisan Nasional government-appointed boards, arguing it would be better for Ahmad Nazlan to look into upgrading rubber research facilities instead.
In defending Ahmad Nazlan’s project by saying it was more than for a Rubber Technology Centre (RTC) and would also include 2,000 acres of rubber plantations, Najib instead diverted attention by highlighting Kulasegaran’s Sosco initiatives and questioned Kok if these would amount to wasteful projects announced by political appointees in their own constituencies.
The exchanges took place amid concern and calls for reform by civil society, following the spate of appointments of MPs from the ruling coalition to helm government-linked companies or other government entities after the Perikatan Nasional coalition took over as government.