MPs claim ‘political interference’ in distribution of food baskets

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun says the distribution of food baskets was coordinated by the Welfare Department with the help of NGOs.

KUALA LUMPUR: Opposition MPs were up in arms with the women, family and community development ministry over the distribution of food baskets for the poor during the movement control order (MCO) period, claiming there was “political interference” which they claim left many needy families in their constituencies without aid.

The minister Rina Harun said confusion arose because the distribution of the food baskets was coordinated by the Welfare Department with the help of NGOs and others and not carried out through MPs.

“This caused confusion,” she said when wrapping up her speech on her ministry during the debate on the royal address in the Dewan Rakyat today.

Rina said coordination of the food basket distribution was crucial as they did not want deserving individuals to be overlooked. She said 846,000 food baskets were distributed nationwide during the MCO period.

She asked the MPs to send the list of those who did not receive the baskets to her ministry.

Earlier, Nurul Izzah Anwar (PH-Permatang Pauh) said there was political interference in the distribution of food baskets in her constituency.

She claimed that there was a letter from the deputy higher education minister stating that all food baskets would be distributed by “certain representatives appointed by the federal government”.

Nurul Izzah told Rina her ministry should not allow other ministries to interfere with its work. “We do not want political interference,” she said.

Teo Nie Ching (PH-Kulai) asked the reasons for appointing coordinators as the MPs had the list of beneficiaries and were aware of those who needed the aid most.

Hannah Yeoh (PH-Segambut) said the ministry should obtain feedback from opposition MPs as the rakyat would seek them out if their demands were not met.

She asked Rina “who the assistance was given to” and added: “Don’t give through political parties, get help from the opposition, too.”

RSN Rayer (PH-Jelutong) also raised the issue of the hike in domestic violence and child abuse during the MCO period, and asked the type of assistance given to these groups.

Rina said her ministry’s Talian Kasih operated round the clock and also coordinated on the matter with the National Security Council.

Kasturi Patto (PH-Batu Kawan) said the hotline was closed from March 18 to March 31, but Rina denied this, saying it “was not closed for that long”.

She said Talian Kasih had received over 20,000 calls in April instead of the usual 4,000 calls a month before the MCO was implemented.

“I have the facts on the daily calls,” she told Kasturi.