DAP calls on Najib to issue a directive to give priority for the speedy payment of aid to tsunami victims and to dispense with the need for the presence of government politicians to give them cheap media publicity with public donations
Media Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Parliament, Wednesday): On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak sought to dispel the public perception that the government is delaying or withholding tsunami aid and pledged that money for tsunami victims channeled through the National Disaster Fund will be distributed fairly.
He announced that the first of the three phases of aid money, i.e. RM500 for each evacuated family, had already been paid out. The second-phase payment of RM5,000 for houses destroyed and RM2,000 for houses damaged, and RM3,000 for large boats destroyed and RM1,000 for small boats, would be paid out this week. The third phase of tsunami aid payment would take three or four weeks or even longer for the government to “make a proper assessment of the total losses sustained by individual families”.
However, Najib gave currency to public perception that the government is delaying tsunami aid payments and undermined his own claim that the first phase of RM500 for each evacuated family had already been paid out when the next day (Tuesday yesterday), he had to be in Teluk Bahang in Penang to disburse the first-phase payment of RM500 to 33 fishermen, and in Sungai Petani to give out RM500 each for 50 fisherman-families from Kota Kuala Muda and Tanjung Dawai.
This has substantiated the Inter-Press Service report yesterday about complaints that tsunami aid, whether in cash or kind, are being held up in relief centres “waiting for some big-shot government politicians to come and distribute them, so that everyone gets media publicity”.
The first payment of RM500 aid for every evacuated family is meant for urgent relief, and should have been paid out within 24 hours, or latest within 48 hours, of the December 26 tsunami disaster, and there can be no excuse whatsoever to hold up its payment for more than a week to suit the convenience of government politicians to gain publicity in the electronic and printed media.
There should be an immediate end to this most cynical exploitation of the sufferings of the tsunami victims for political gain, as the delay of more than a week in the first-phase payment of tsunami aid to the tsunami victims is completely inexcusable.
Considerng the outpouring of the generosity of Malaysians to the plight of the tsunami victims, with one such fund, the New Straits Fund/Berita Harian “Malaysian Tsunami Disaster Fund” exceeding RM20 million collection, the first payment of RM500 for every evacuated family is outrageous for its mean, miserly and stingy sum and an insult to the generosity of Malaysians.
The first-payment of RM500 tsunami aid for every evacuated family should be increased by five to ten times, and it should be paid out within 48 hours. Najib should issue a directive to give priority for the speedy payment of aid to tsunami victims and to dispense with the need for the presence of government politicians to give them cheap media publicity with public donations before such payments could be made.
The priority must be getting aid out to the tsunami victims in the shortest possible time, and not considerations of free media publicity by government politicians. There is no reason why such payments could not be paid by name-less and faceless government officials, with or without media publicity.
I do not object government politicians jumping on to the bandwagon of the tsunami disaster to get some cheap publicity disbursing the public’s generous donations to the tsunami victims, but it is the height of irresponsibility to override the priority and precedence of the need to give relief to the tsunami victims at the first available opportunity by delaying payments and subordinating them to suit the convenience of government politicians to get cheap media publicity.
Malaysians must strongly object when the objective of giving relief to the tsunami victims at the first available opportunity is lost sight of and is subordinated to the agenda of government politicians to get cheap media publicity at the expense of the sufferings of the victims and the generosity of the Malaysian public.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman