PETALING JAYA: A dispute over the amount of government food aid has pitted a Cabinet minister against some residents in Selayang, Kuala Lumpur, which has been placed under lockdown since Monday.
Some residents claim they had been provided with only a 5kg bag of rice, a 2kg bottle of cooking oil and an 850gm packet of wheat flour on Wednesday.
But Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun rejects their claim, saying the aid was not provided by the Welfare Department (JKM) but could have been from a volunteer group.
JKM is part of her ministry and is in charge of coordinating the delivery of aid donations made by societies, private donors and companies.
Several residents living in flats at Taman Sri Murni Phase 1 told FMT the rice, cooking oil and flour were the only assistance JKM had provided so far.
But Rina, shown a photograph of the three items, told FMT: “That’s not true. Those three items are not from JKM, maybe they are from an NGO.”
JKM director-general Zulkifli Ismail told FMT aid had been delivered to the residents twice and said they would do so again today.
“We worked with DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Hall) and NGOs to provide some rice, cooking oil and flour during the first day (Monday) and we provided six or seven items on Saturday,” he said.
“I know it is not enough but we have given the residents a hotline to call if they need us to send them certain things.”
Taman Sri Murni flats and other areas surrounding the Selayang wholesale market, and Pusat Bandar Utara (KL North) are under lockdown under an enhanced movement control order (EMCO) until May 3.
It is the third locality in the capital to come under an EMCO after Menara City One at Jalan Dang Wangi, and Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion off Jalan Masjid India.
Running out of groceries because of sudden lockdown
There are more than 1,700 flats at Taman Sri Murni, which was built in three phases.
Several residents told FMT about their dissatisfaction with JKM and the lack of food provided.
“We only received three items. What can we do with that?” said one resident named Raj. “They can come and check every unit. We have the evidence. They said they’ve supplied 1,500 families, but we at Phase 1 have not received these items.”
Another resident alleged that the residents in Phase 1 and Phase 2 did not receive the same amount of aid as those in Phase 3, where more Malaysians live. A large number of Rohingya refugees also live in the area.
On Wednesday, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said all residents in the area, including Rohingya refugees, would be given food aid.
However, another resident in Phase 1, Ms Paul, told FMT the aid was “no use” and said her neighbours had no choice but to cook porridge with the three items that were given.
Many residents were used to buying their daily needs from a nearby sundry shop but the imposition of EMCO in the early hours of Monday morning left most with only a few days’ supply of groceries.
Volunteer groups step in to help
Fortunately, NGOs and private donors have stepped in to contribute food for the residents, providing them with a “completely balanced diet” which Ms Paul said should be able to last them for one week.
“People were very hungry, and children had no milk powder. When those things arrived, you could finally see everyone smiling,” she said.
“The authorities should have come to our units and given us contact numbers and taken down household data such as the number of people in each unit, how many are children, elderly or sick, and what their needs are. But nothing,” she said.
She said the authorities should have prepared rations for the residents and mobilised the relevant units as soon as the lockdown was announced.
Stating that many families have run out of milk and toiletries such as soap, toothpaste and pampers, another resident, Mohd Badri Hamza, also hoped the authorities would provide dates for the Muslims living in the area for them to break fast during Ramadan.
Sundry shop stays open but it’s very crowded
Badri, who also lives in Phase 1, said a sundry shop had been allowed to operate across the road but had limited stock.
“The problem is that many people want to go to the shop, so it’s crowded and dangerous,” he said. “I hope the police can create a more systematic method for people to visit the shop.”
He proposed that the authorities set up a kiosk to sell groceries.
Another Phase 1 resident named May said that authorities should do more to meet the needs of young mothers. She said she had encountered a woman who wanted to take her baby to the clinic and kept trying to catch the attention of a soldier at the guardhouse, but to no avail.
“She said she was breastfeeding but only had two days’ supply of food left. How was she to breastfeed after that?” May said.
Another young mother had asked her sister to provide some milk and other supplies, but the soldiers only allowed the milk to go through, as “the other products might have germs”.
“In the end, the neighbour started making some noise about it, saying if people don’t die from Covid-19, they would die from hunger, so the soldiers relented,” said May.
“One very good lesson I have learnt is never take freedom for granted. This has been a real eye-opener.”
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