MP asks for understanding by police over distribution of food aid

Klang MP Charles Santiago was questioned by police today for allegedly breaching the MCO while giving out food aid to his constituents.

PETALING JAYA: Klang MP Charles Santiago said the police should be more welcoming of efforts to ensure people are fed during the movement control order (MCO) by easing the distribution of aid.

Santiago was called in for questioning at the North Klang district police headquarters today after reportedly breaching the MCO while distributing vegetables and groceries to his constituents at the Dewan Orang Ramai Taman Klang Utama two days ago.

While he had received approval from the Welfare Department (JKM) to distribute the provisions yesterday, he had to hold the activity on Sunday instead as the farm produce from Cameron Highlands was sent earlier than expected.

Police at the scene told Santiagio he needed a police permit, “an argument that was refuted even by the JKM”, said the three-term MP.

“After my session at the police headquarters was over, I realised there is a clash of ego between the welfare department and the police, with the boys in blue insisting that a police permit is necessary.

“I hope the police will sit with the Welfare Department to drum out a proper protocol as opposed to flexing their muscles unnecessarily. But more than that, I wish the people in power and authority would let us get on with our work in serving the people who voted for us.

“Police believe they have to issue a permit for distribution (but) I have no idea what permit this is. We only need JKM’s permission,” he said.

JKM director-general Zulkifli Ismail told FMT that police permits were only required if delivering aid inter-state.

FMT has contacted Bukit Aman’s corporate communications chief Asmawati Ahmad for clarification.

North Klang police chief Nurulhuda Mohd Salleh previously said an investigation paper had been opened under Section 269 of the Penal Code and Section 22(b) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act for violating the MCO.

Guidelines released by the women, family and community development ministry at the start of the month state that NGOs who wish to distribute food and essential items during the MCO must register with the nearest state JKM or district welfare office a day before the distribution is carried out.

While 600 people went to receive aid instead of the 200 expected – which Santiago said was indicative of how dire the situation was on the ground – his volunteers controlled the crowd well and followed protocol by checking body temperature, ensuring social distancing and wearing of face masks and gloves, and making sure everyone sanitised their hands.

Santiago, who chairs the Dewan Rakyat’s Select Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Affairs, said he had distributed groceries and vegetables to 10,500 families since the start of the MCO.

He said MPs, NGOs and civil society organisations had been doing “an excellent job” distributing provisions to those who desperately needed them.

“The police and other authorities should be welcoming these relentless efforts which are crucial in ensuring people are fed, babies have milk and no one goes to bed hungry,” he said.

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