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NGOs proposes bill to reduce poverty

 | August 14, 2012

The proposed bill called Social Inclusion Act will also look at discrimination.

KUALA LUMPUR: Two NGOs mooted an idea of a bill called Social Inclusion Act (SIA) that would help reduce poverty and tackle institutionalised discrimination in Malaysia.

National Human Rights Society (Hakam) and Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) took an initiative to even present a draft bill of SIA at a press conference today.

Hakam representative Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said that SIA bill would compel the government to set up a Social Inclusion Commission (SIC) that would formulate integrated policies and monitor its implementation to address marginalisation within Malaysian society.

“The SIC would come under the Parliament’s purview. It would also be required to table its reports to the august House twice a year,” said Malik who was flanked by SABM representative A Jayanath.

He also said that the Official Secrets Act (OSA) would not apply to the reports made by SIC and the commission would have representation from both sides of the political divide.

“The Parliament would be required to establish a select committee, chaired by the opposition leader, to determine the members of the commission,” said Malik.

On the need for the commission, Jayanath said that currently, 40% of the households in the country are trapped in the inter-generational cycle of poverty and inequality.

“These Malaysians lack the ability to overcome multi-dimensional disadvantages they face in their daily lives.

“Ultimately, it causes various types of social ills such as substance abuse, crime, mental illness and so on,” said Jayanath.

Recipe for disaster

He also said that income inequality in the country had also worsened since the 1990s, with 40% of households earning only RM1,529 on average as compared to the top 20% who are earning RM10,208 on average.

“And the top 10% earn about 33% of the nation’s income share. This is a recipe for disaster,” said Jayanath.

In addition to reducing poverty, Jayanath said the bill, should it be enacted, would serve to achieve greater unity among Malaysians and bring democracy to greater heights.

Whether the bill would contradict Article 153 of the Federal Constitution which accords special privileges to the Malays and Bumiputeras, Malik dismissed it outright.

“In fact, the commission would help the government achieve the aspirations of Article 153,” said Malik.

He said that proposed bill would compel the prime minister to act on the advice of the commission on policies to reduce poverty and tackle marginalisation in the country.

“And this will reduce the politicising of Article 153 which in fact protects the legitimate rights of all Malaysians,” said Malik.

The lawyer-activist urged politicians from both sides of the political divide and other civil society movements to attend a dialogue session of the draft bill scheduled to be held next month.

“The bill is not carved in stone and we welcome the public to provide feedback on the matter so that we could improve on it,” he said.


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