Santiago: Ratu Naga has right to BR1M money

Syarul Ema Rena Abu Samah

PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago has defended the right of government critics to receive aid under the 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) programme if they are eligible.

“There’s no conflict of interest,” he said in a comment on a blog article that implied that critics of Prime Minister Najib Razak would be hypocritical if they were to accept such aid.

Recently, a blogger shared a Facebook post by user “Rosli Samat”, who uploaded a screenshot from the BR1M website revealing that a well known Najib critic, Syarul Ema Rena Abu Samah, was a recipient of the aid.

The caption for the screenshot read: “Mahathir and PakaTun don’t like BR1M. But the pro-Mahathir Ratu Naga takes BR1M?”

Syarul Ema, popularly known as Ratu Naga, responded with her own Facebook posting, saying that the BR1M programme was funded by the public.

“I think a sense of perspective is in order here,” Santiago told FMT. “BR1M money comes from the people and is meant to provide support to poor families. If Ratu Naga is indeed a legitimate recipient, then there is no hypocrisy in her taking the money, even if she is vocal against Najib’s administration.

“BR1M is a policy that was developed in a large part to help people. Bloggers should instead be focusing on the money that allegedly has been stolen from the rakyat.”

Serdang MP Ong Kian Ming agreed with Santiago. “There’s no reason why BR1M should not be spent to help the people who have lower incomes,” he said. “That’s what BR1M is for anyway.”

Cynthia Gabriel, Executive Director of the Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism, also spoke on the issue, saying BR1M money should not be used to buy votes.

“Receiving BR1M aid and criticising Najib are two different issues,” she said. “BR1M is taxpayers’ money and should rightly be given back to the people and should not be used as brownie points or to fish for votes.

“Ratu Naga, like all other citizens, pays taxes, GST being an example.”