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Set up select committee on the poor, say Pakatan MPs

MPs at roundtable meeting
5 Indian MPs attended the discussion

PETALING JAYA, 21 Nov: Pakatan Rakyat parliamentarians want a parliamentary select committee on poor and vulnerable groups to be set up.

“The select committee is important as we need some oversight on (government) allocations for the poor. This is to ensure that the expenditure is properly utilised in view of a possible layoffs next year,” said Charles Santiago, member of parliament (MP) for Klang.

Santiago was one of five Pakatan Rakyat MPs who were involved in a roundtable discussion on Indian community issues this morning in a meeting room in Parliament.

The purpose of the discussion was to evaluate if there was an improvement among the Indian Malaysian communities under the Pakatan Rakyat state governments since the March 2008 general election.

About 40 representatives from non-governmental organisations and lawyers attended this discussion. 

Charles Santiago
Charles Santiago

Santiago said the parliamentary select committee could also help the government develop a methodology to come up with a realistic poverty line indicator.

The poverty-line income based on the Ninth Malaysia Plan considers a family poor if it earns below RM720 in Peninsula Malaysia, RM960 in Sabah, and RM830 in Sarawak. In the hardcore poverty category, earnings are RM430, RM540 and RM520 respectively.

Santiago claimed the present poverty line indicator was unrealistic, adding that, “The government policy on poverty reduction is a clear failure.”

For their part, the Pakatan Rakyat MPs have agreed to meet on 25 Nov to form a caucus for poor and vulnerable groups.

In addition, the MPs will also propose to Pakatan Rakyat state governments in Kedah, Kelantan, Perak, Penang and Selangor to offer micro projects to these groups.

“Local councils have many projects worth between RM1,000 to RM5,000 that could be offered to vulnerable groups who are now hard hit by the economic crisis,” explained Santiago.

Among the other issues raised at the roundtable meeting included stateless Indians, the low incomes of single mothers, the lack of allocation for Tamil schools, assistance for Indian upstart entrepreneurs and the Indian Malaysian representation in the civil service.

Dr Denison Jayasooria, chairperson of the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Working Group of the Malaysian Human Rights Commission, said the government’s move to set a special cabinet committee on Indian welfare in June 2008 is significant.

However, the lack of a proper secretariat is a setback, said Denison, who compared the performance of the Barisan Nasional government to the Pakatan Rakyat run states.

“The Pakatan state governments need to have a specific strategic plan to assist Indian groups.  They can use local mechanisms to articulate local concerns and promote local participation,” said Denison.

Only one non-Indian MP attended
Chong Eng, the sole non-Indian MP at the roundtable meeting, noted the plight of Indian Malaysian women who were victims of domestic violence.

DAP MP for Bukit Mertajam urged that special attention be given to these women.

The absence of Chinese and Malay Pakatan Rakyat MPs was glaring this morning. Santiago vowed to invite more non-Indian MPs and representatives from Penang, Kedah and Perak government for the next roundtable discussion. 


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