Villagers turn down free Astro and minister is happy

Wilfred Madius Tangau (fourth from right) presenting an Astro decoder to a recipient in Tuaran.

KOTA KINABALU: The low response from Tuaran residents towards offers of free Astro decoders and free monthly subscriptions is proof that the government’s efforts towards poverty eradication is working, says Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Wilfred Madius Tangau.

A total of 2,091 household heads under the government’s eKasih programme in Tuaran, about 40km from here, had been shortlisted to receive the freebies but a ceremony held yesterday saw only a fraction turning up.

Tangau said out of the initial 500, only 43 accepted the free decoders.

“That’s why we can see the hall is not filled up today. Most of the villagers didn’t need the decoders since they already have them.

“From this, it is evident that the various social-economic improvement programmes by the government have yielded positive results,” said the Tuaran MP.

Tangau said it would be worrying if all the 2,000-plus shortlisted recipients turned up as it would give the wrong impression that he and other leaders in the district had failed to help improve the residents’ livelihood.

The Upko acting president said that Sabah’s poverty rate in 2009 was 19.9%.

“But in only seven years after Najib Razak took over as prime minister, the figure dropped drastically to a mere 2.9% in 2016,” he said, attributing the decline to the minimum wage policy, which became a law in 2013.

Officiating at the launch of the NJOI eKasih “Digital Education” handover ceremony, Tangau commended Astro for deciding to conduct its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme in Tuaran.

“I did not hesitate in accepting their offer when I was approached by Astro director of community affairs David Yap.

“To me, it is not about giving the eKasih recipients the opportunity to watch free movies on television.

“I was more interested in the educational programmes that are also being offered by Astro,” he said.

NJOI provides a wide range of interactive educational programmes for students sitting their UPSR, PT3 and SPM examinations.

Tangau urged the recipients to make full use of Astro’s educational channel as a tool for their children to achieve academic excellence.

“Money and properties can be taken away from you but there is something that no one in this world can take away from you and that is good education.

“And only by having a good education can people get out from the poverty cycle and, in this case, move out from the eKasih list,” he said.

Later, Yap accompanied Tangau, Kiulu assemblyman Joniston Bangkuai and Tamparuli community development leader Jahid Jahim to present the decoders to the recipients.