The Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun came under fire when female Opposition MPs stood up in Parliament to urge her against allowing political interference in Welfare Department activities, especially in the distribution of food aid during the movement control order (MCO).
Raising the matter in Parliament today, PKR’s Permatang Pauh MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said food aid distribution in her constituency came to an unexpected halt due to a letter from Bersatu’s Nibong Tebal MP Datuk Mansor Othman, who redirected food aid distribution to be carried out by “select representatives”.
“We have worked with the Welfare Department very well before this.
“The minister must ensure that main directive only comes from her ministry and no longer have any interference from politicians which in turn could cause failure to distribution of food that is needed immediately,” said Izzah during the minister’s winding up speech on the King’s address.
Izzah was referring to the minister’s speech where she hoped to empower the Welfare Department.
“Since we are talking about empowering the Welfare Department’s role, I hope that the minister will not allow any more political interference,” she added.
Reported earlier, the letter from Mansor had directed the Welfare Department to only provide food aid to the coordinators mentioned in the attachment of the letter, clashing with the government’s promise of equal food distribution and alluding to political favour.
Similarly, DAP’s Kulai MP Teoh Nie Ching claimed that food aid distribution was delayed after interference from politicians.
Teoh said that before these interferences, the Opposition MPs were able to work well with the Welfare Department.
“Suddenly in Permatang Pauh the handbrake was pulled (handbrake ditarik), in Kulai the handbrake was pulled.
“Even in Perak, the former mentri besar said to wait until Perikatan Nasional (PN) appoints a representative to distribute the food aid.
“If this is for the people, why is there political interference?” she said.
Weighing in, DAP’s Segambut MP and former women, family and community development deputy minister Hannah Yeoh said political representatives on the ground are not limited to Bersatu, MCA and MIC only.
“[It should be] a coordination by all parties.
“We are MPs on the ground. We know the ones who are poor in our constituencies.
“Please include the Opposition MPs and not just limit to the government,” she said.
In a response to the Opposition MPs, Rina said the food aid or food baskets were based on requests by parliamentary constituencies and not MPs.
“Maybe this was where there is confusion.
“[On top of that] in each district we only have 108 Welfare Department offices, for example in Johor, there is only 10, compared to the volume of people who need aid,” said Rina.
In a related matter, Rina was quizzed by another female Opposition MP over the halt of Talian Kasih for two weeks, March 18 to March 31.
DAP’s Batu Kawan MP Kasthuriaani Patto claimed that she received complaints that the care line was shut for two weeks and only reopened after the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry was bombarded with queries.
“Even I tried to called, and I heard the automated message saying that it will be closed from March 18 to March 31.
“Could we ask for a clarification on why it was stopped?” Kasthuriaani said.
Rina in her reply instead defended her ministry, saying the care line did not stop for two weeks.
“It was only on the first day (that it was stopped) as we were coordinating with the National Security Council (NSC) to use one number for all MCO matters.
“It was not up to two weeks,” she said.
She also said 96 percent of calls were regarding food baskets.
She noted that the number of calls that came through the Talian Kasih jumped drastically during the MCO period — 62,299, with 59,359 calls asking about food baskets. – MMO