Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 10th of April 2014
On the 27th of March, in his reply to parliament, the Minister in charge of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU), Senator Abdul Wahid Omar, in responding to my proposal of the Social Inclusion Act (SIA) said that “The Act is not needed and will not be considered”. This is most disappointing given the serious problems of poverty facing the country.
While the levels of absolute poverty in this country has been reduced significantly over the past 50 years, the fact that 80% of 5.2 million households qualified for the first round of Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BR1M) handouts shows that relative poverty in this country still needs to be addressed. More recently, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Ahmad Maslan, stated that 7.9 million individuals and families would be receiving BR1M 3.0 with the government incurring an expenditure of RM4.5 billion compared to RM3 billion for BR1M 2.0 and RM2.6 billion for BR1M 1.0.
The Social Inclusion Act 2014, which is a private member’s bill submitted by Member of Parliament for Sungai Siput Dr Jeyakumar and supported by me, proposes the setting up of a Social Inclusion Commission to monitor the anti-poverty policies undertaken by different government agencies and to provide recommendations where necessary. Some of the roles played by this Social Inclusion Commission will be similar to the role played by SUHAKAM in monitoring the human rights record of government agencies with responsibilities in different areas. For example, both Commissions have the power to conduct inquiries into complaints where necessary and both Commission have the power to conduct surveys and research to identify the key areas of concern which needs to be addressed.
In the past, SUHAKAM has a broad range of areas which concern human rights including looking into complaints about police abuse and brutality, land rights of indigenous peoples, child rights, women’s rights and increasing human rights awareness among students in institutes of higher learning. Most recently, in the 2013 SUHAKAM Annual report, shortcomings were identified in the amendments to the Prevention of Crime Act and the Penal Code that was passed in 2013. The efforts of SUHAKAM has pressured the government to be more accountable for its actions including publishing a response to the SUHAKAM 2012 Annual Report.
The Social Inclusion Commission can play a similar role to SUHAKAM in highlighting the existing shortcomings in the anti-poverty measures undertaken by the government. For this reason, the Social Inclusion Act 2014 should be tabled and allowed to be debated on by the Members of Parliament.
 Section 20(1)(a) of the SIA and Section 4(1)(d) of the SUHAKAM Act
 Section 20(1)(b) of the SIA and Section 4(2)a) of the SUHAKAM Act