After KWAP, PKR MP claims Umno leaders out to ‘destroy’ EPF

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A PKR MP has accused Umno leaders of trying to “destroy” the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) with their calls for Putrajaya to allow another one-off RM10,000 withdrawal following the recent floods.

Pasir Gudang MP Hassan Abdul Karim claimed Umno leaders had in the past also “nearly destroyed” the civil servant’s Retirement Fund (KWAP) with the loss of RM4 billion loaned to 1MDB.

These days, he said allowing further EPF withdrawals would similarly destroy the private retirement fund.

“From Umno’s president to its Youth chief want to gamble private sector workers’ savings in the EPF, supposedly in the name of helping the people affected by the floods.

“Are Umno leaders bankrupt of ideas?” Hassan said in a statement.

Within Umno, party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Youth chief Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki were among those who had urged the government to allow contributors to withdraw up to another RM10,000 from their own savings, after the previous i-Sinar dan i-Citra facilities.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who is also Umno vice-president, has so far reportedly said no such approvals will be announced.

Hassan noted that EPF withdrawals amounting to RM101.1 billion had been performed under the three facilities since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, while around six million contributors were found to have critically low savings as of last December.

“Do Umno leaders who claimed to be fighting for Malay rights know that 74 percent of EPF contributors are bumiputera?

“Do Umno leaders know they have failed to protect the rights and interests of the poor Malays from the B40 group?” said Hassan.

In resisting the latest calls for withdrawal permission, Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz previously said around six million contributors will not benefit from the facility due to an insufficient savings balance.

Separately, the National Union of Bank Employees (NUBE) welcomed Zafrul’s stand, stating it would be unwise to allow such withdrawals after each major disaster.

“It is a universally accepted view that the governments, at both the federal and state levels, are responsible for ensuring availability of sufficient basic necessities and their timely distribution, to alleviate the hardships faced by flood victims.

“It is particularly critical now, in the seven states hit by floods recently,” said NUBE general secretary J Solomon in a statement.

“Therefore, NUBE is of the view that the scheme and incentives announced by the prime minister may assist the flood victims and when it is insufficient, the government should increase the allocation of its resources accordingly.

“But to be obsessed with dipping into the EPF during every disaster is a sign of an incompetent government and sadly the said politicians are from the ruling government,” said Solomon.

Further, he said previous withdrawals had only compounded the bigger issue of an absence in decent wage increase or living wage, as well as other losses in EPF funds through alleged corruption.

“To add salt to the wound, the misappropriation of the sovereign fund of Malaysia by certain leaders has retarded income growth for ordinary citizens to be cared for during such disasters.

“Therefore, NUBE hopes that the government led by Ismail Sabri will not repeat the mistakes of his predecessors and prepare an immediate action plan for a decent living wage for workers so that workers will have decent savings for exigencies and appropriate retirement savings for social protection,” said Solomon.

Meanwhile, according to a source in the know, tension is mounting in Umno over Putrajaya’s refusal to accede to the party’s demands to allow EPF contributors to make further withdrawals from their retirement savings.

The issue has pitted Umno president Zahid and his predecessor, Najib Razak, who is the Barisan Nasional adviser, against Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri.

“The president has made his stand on this very clear, he wants the EPF withdrawals allowed. Najib also wants the EPF withdrawals cleared,” said the high-level Umno source.

Their stand is backed by an Umno Supreme Council statement on Aug 27 that the government must accede to the requests of the people, including a one-off withdrawal of at least RM10,000 from their EPF account.

The source said Ismail had attended that meeting, together with Umno information chief Shahril Hamdan, who was later to become Ismail’s economics adviser.

Ismail has recently said the government will not allow further withdrawals, while Shahril’s backing of Putrajaya’s stand has seen him come under intense criticism on social media.

The Umno source said the problem was that “certain figures” in the government were resisting the push for the EPF withdrawals.

“Umno wants the EPF withdrawals, the president and the Supreme Council have made this very clear. This was discussed with the PM. We want the government to reconsider its decision,” said the source.

The source said the Umno-led government should listen to the party, as it is a grassroots party that knows the situation on the ground and what the people want.

“People are struggling and have been struggling because of lockdowns. They have been asking for EPF withdrawals even before the floods. So, the government must listen.”

The source said there were growing concerns within the party’s ranks that Umno would pay the price for decisions made by Umno ministers in the government that are not in line with the party’s wishes. – Malaysiakini