Penang MPs claim ‘political agents’ handling Putrajaya’s food aid

Some 1,000 food hampers left at a multipurpose hall in Balik Pulau. (Pic by Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik).

GEORGE TOWN: Opposition MPs in Penang are crying foul that they have been sidelined in the distribution of Covid-19 food hampers for the poor allocated to their constituencies.

They said the aid was instead channelled to political agents from the ruling coalition who ignored a list of the “deserving poor” prepared by MPs in their constituencies.

The MPs say there are two types of Covid-19 food hampers from Putrajaya– “food baskets” from the finance ministry and the other hamper from the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma).

The finance ministry has allocated 1,000 food hampers worth RM100 to each MP in the country, while Nadma has allocated 1,000 food hampers worth RM50 for every district, which in turn would be distributed by the respective assemblymen.

The food hampers include items such as rice, dry food and other necessities, as part of a one-off aid for the poor.

It is understood that only the parliamentary seats of Tanjong represented by Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, Bukit Bendera and Jelutong have received 500 hampers each.

This letter purportedly by the deputy higher education minister orders the state welfare department to hand over Covid-19 food hampers to coordinators in Penang.

There are 13 parliamentary seats in Penang: seven held by the DAP, four by PKR and one each by Umno and PPBM.

“A welfare officer told me ‘YB, I am so sorry, I got directive to give out the hampers to parti haluan kerajaan’,” Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik told FMT.

“Of the list (of deserving recipients) I gave, only a few received them. As far as I know, of the 1,000 hampers, 450 were given to Umno and PAS each. And the rest were given to PPBM,” he claimed.

Batu Kawan MP Kasthuri Patto said she was not surprised that political parties were appointed as distribution agents.

She said she was told about it at a welfare department meeting at a district office on April 14.

Kasthuri said this was a major change of plan as the welfare department officers had on March 30 asked for a list of those deserving the hampers.

“An officer told me regretfully that the 800 hampers for my constituency have gone out to political parties to be distributed.

“In a meeting on April 14, I was told by the welfare officers that Kepala Batas MP Reezal Merican Naina Merican would be in charge of aid distribution in Penang while Nibong Tebal MP Mansor Othman would be his deputy.

“I think it is not right to trivialise the suffering of the people by politicking with welfare aid. And since it is coming from the finance ministry, it is funded by taxpayers.”

Kasthuri was also told that the food hampers had been given out to political parties, with the lion’s share of 800 going to Umno and PAS, and PPBM getting 200.

Bayan Baru MP Sim Tze Tzin said a letter from the higher education ministry ordered that all food hampers be distributed to “coordinators”.

He said the letter signed by Mansor, who is deputy higher education minister, was “strange”, as the government had assured bipartisanship in the handing out of Covid-19 food aid.

“The prime minister said we would give to all and no one would be left out. We were happy when they called us to give name lists of those deserving.

“I sent in 1,000 names of the poor, disabled and senior citizens from the village development committees. And then we waited, but no news.

“When we saw Mansor’s letter, we saw the names of politicians as coordinators. How are we sure that the deserving recipients would receive them? Is this becoming a political handout of sorts?” he asked.

FMT has contacted Reezal and Mansor for their response.

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