YOURSAY | No hiding the invisibles, Covid-19 reveals depths of poverty


Modified 11 Apr 2020, 11:16 pm

YOURSAY | ‘According to Mahatma Gandhi, poverty is the worst form of violence.’

Making the invisible visible: Faces of poverty in Malaysia

David Dass: This article by Bridget Welsh and Calvin Cheng is much needed. It gives all of us a perspective of the number of people who will starve without assistance during the movement control order (MCO).

There are many who were on one meal a day before this Covid-19 crisis. These include many malnourished and stunted children. They cross all divides of race, religion and nationality.

Civil society groups play a role in reaching out to the very poor. It was ridiculous for the government to initially stop them from providing aid directly to the poor. It was good that that order was rescinded.

Given the scale of the problem, government aid and resources are required. NGOs simply do not have the resources to help those in need. Many in the middle class are responding magnificently by donating to various charities and by volunteering.

There has never been a crisis like this. All political parties should come together. If this crisis does not bring out the best is us - our compassion and empathy - then there will be no redemption for us.

Remember Marie Antoinette - when told people were starving because they had no bread, she said, “Let them eat cake.” There are doubts as to whether she actually said it. But that story illustrated the decadence of the French ruling class and their indifference to the suffering of the people. In the end, she lost her head.

Fortunately, this is not our situation. The article does praise the government's efforts to ameliorate the suffering of the poor. There are so many of them. Our economy was not what many of us thought it was. We are indeed very far away from becoming a developed nation.

Mortality: “In writing this piece, the aim is to further discussion and promote understanding, with the hope that as many people as possible can get through this difficult period, that ‘available resources are maximised’ and that those suffering the hardships described in the personal stories are given a face,” said Welsh and Cheng.

I know for a fact that the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) is not. I grudge not those recipients who definitely do not need the BPN but are given since they are entitled as per the government's IRB (Inland and Revenue Board) screening.

Yet reading the heart-wrenching stories of the 'invisibles' here, it is obvious if the available resources allocated under BPN are maximised, many more of these folks can be helped.

Welsh and Cheng, thank you for highlighting the invisibles in our country. But I fear it will come to this only - an article to jolt the conscience of those of us who read it. No, I do not wish to blow my own trumpet but I have already helped within my means towards appeals that I have come across.

The current backdoor government has shown itself only capable of doing anything of substance other than stirring controversies.

Just look at the appointment of PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang (as special envoy for the Middle East with ministerial rank) - put into context of the suffering invisibles, here you are feeding tens of thousands of ringgit to that man monthly while the poor do not enough for even a meal a day!

Anonymous_3f4b: Sad to say Pakatan Harapan did not even address the poverty issue even after UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston came out with the damning report that the poverty line in Malaysia is grossly understated.

Worse still, the then economy affairs minister Azmin Ali denied the report and said that it was not true. Harapan did not even come to the special rapporteur’s defence and pretend there is no issue worth exploring and taking action.

Probably because there is no political capital to gain from this, they were waiting for the cue from their supreme leader, the PM, without which they are lost.

They did not want to upset the socio-economic demographic profile which they were comfortable with at that stage and prefer the status quo, and they were playing internal politics in the game of succession to the throne.

Harapan could have tackled the problem in their 22 months in power given this God-given chance but refused and was unwilling to do so and we are back to where we were, maybe even worse off than before.

Redmann: The United Nations taking cognisance of the situation doesn't excuse our "politicians" from visiting our squalors regularly to obtain first-hand knowledge about the pain and pangs of poverty.

I strongly believe that allocated funds are ending up in the wrong pockets and wallets of those tasked with dispensing aid. After all, what else does Malaysia Boleh mean? Many wear it as a shirt-tail flair. Many are proud of this sick mantra.

Will our present and future "governments" take positive action by adopting concrete measures to overcome this social malaise? I also believe that those in power find this a waste of time and resources because they are not able to keep their fingers in the almost deplete till.

RozainiMR: I think post-Covid-19 pandemic will see poverty as the major issue even in advanced countries.

Malaysia has the tools, resources and what it takes to overcome every poverty issue in the country. Where any possible lacking is uncovered, there are always the experience and best practices of other countries that can be sourced to address any gap in finding solutions to challenges faced.

What is in insufferably short supply is the pertinent political will to rethink and steer the country to do what is right. The quality of political will is significant, too. Competency and ethical expectations of those in power to make the best decisions for the people of Malaysia is wanting.

We need individuals that value selflessness, diligence, integrity, honesty, accountability, openness, responsibility, political neutrality, legality, acting exclusively in the public interest, competence and conflict of interest avoidance, not “political artistes”.

Therefore, rethinking toward reform in the process of positioning such quality individuals must happen. Now, more than ever, the people of Malaysia must engage to force such reforms. Political parties, too, are at the forefront of producing those politicians and candidates in elections embracing the values mentioned.

With Muslims as the majority voters and knowledgeable that the Quran, in various ‘ayaat’ (no apt translation of the Arabic word to English), has demanded a very high standard of ethics from those in power and holding public office – always to uphold justice and to abhor corruption, discrimination and exclusion of any segment of society in eradicating poverty.

Malaysia has the guidance, resources, machinery, and the expertise needed to actualise any reform aimed to eradicate abuse of power, corruption, and improve the quality of lives of its people; that includes eradication of poverty. But first, the people of Malaysia must put in place those qualified individuals.

AnotherKomentar: After more than six decades of regressive affirmative socio-economic actions, Malaysian need revolutionary remedies and principles-based policies to pass through this global valley of death and destruction that will affect all nations.

But under the current weak government strung together by self-interest alone, this Perikatan Nasional (PN) backdoor government will instead strengthen race-based economic policies to precipitate Malaysia as a fractious and failing state.

KSN: According to Mahatma Gandhi, poverty is the worst form of violence. In a country like ours, with so much of God-given natural resources used properly to uplift poverty, poverty should be a dirty word.

But what to do with a government that abused public funds for the benefit of cronies and families? Only God can help. But let us be patient.

The above is a selection of comments posted by Malaysiakini subscribers. Only paying subscribers can post comments. In the past one year, Malaysiakinians have posted over 100,000 comments. Join the Malaysiakini community and help set the news agenda. Subscribe now.

These comments are compiled to reflect the views of Malaysiakini subscribers on matters of public interest. Malaysiakini does not intend to represent these views as fact.

Keep up with the latest information on the outbreak in the country with Malaysiakini's free Covid-19 tracker.

Malaysiakini is providing free access to the most important updates on the coronavirus pandemic. You can find them here.

Help keep independent media alive - subscribe to Malaysiakini.