To some *coughZahid *coughJibby* this isn’t a lot of dosh.
But 9 million ringgit can go a long way to helping entire swathes of our Malaysian community, such as those in the lowest-income B40 households who are among the hardest hit economically during this blighted Covid-19 pandemic.
Hence the question being asked by the opposition: how did RM9.1 million from Mitra — the Malaysia Indian Transformation Unit set up to aid the Indian Malaysian poor — end up being channelled to a research arm under a political party, the MIC?
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Sure, the moolah was supposedly, purportedly used for online classes for underprivileged Indian school kids during the pandemic. But why was a research centre with (allegedly! allegedly!) no experience in education being tasked with organising online classes?
How many of the lucky 18,000 students allegedly attending the classes even had access to laptops and the Internet? And, why oh why were the funds handed to a foundation chaired by a politico (that’s MIC head honcho S. Vigneswaran), and not NGOs?
Also, also, asketh the man with all the questions — DAP’s Charles Santiago — why would organising zoom classes for kiddos cost RM9 mil? Was the money being/ not being diverted to the Malaysian I̶n̶v̶i̶s̶i̶b̶l̶e̶ Indian Congress?
So many questions, but instead of simple straightforward answers, what we’ve been getting is the traditional, time-honoured response of the Malaysian political community — wag a digit, point a finger, feign innocence and deal out the blame game cards.
Waytha, in response, pulled out a move that would make Rafael Nadal proud and volleyed it right back to Halimah’s side of the court.
And Charlie Santiago, putting on a decent impression of an umpire, called on Halimah to furnish us all with the docs to show once and for all how the money flowed, so we know who’s telling the truth and whose underpants have turned to ash.
It’s easy to get lost with all allegations on grant $$ movement and the “he did it, no she did it” back and forth going on but the main point at the heart of this brouhaha is this:
Is the annual RM100 million Mitra allocation being used as advertised to improve the socio-economic standing of Indians in the country?
Is this king’s ransom actually being used to uplift poor households, develop small businesses, offer education opportunities and youth training, improve Tamil schools, develop entrepreneurial skills, as well as aid single mothers and the unemployed?
Will the MACC, which is getting in on this action by probing the alleged misuse of funds, be able to furnish the answers?
Over the years, gomens past and present have thrown money at various plans and schemes, all ostensibly to elevate the community.
We’re not saying they’re all failures. But what is clear is that despite these many supposed upliftment opportunities, the community is still struggling to break out of the low-income trap.
The fact of the matter is that no amount of money – be it RM9 million or RM900 million – or brilliant socio-economic plans by any government will have any impact if there isn’t political will, absolute transparency and proper disbursement of funds and grants.
And unless that happens, despite whatever accusations, denials, press releases and counter-press releases our politicos puke out, the ones being left out and losing out will be Malaysia’s Indian community.
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Haili is a cartoonist and graphic artist. An old hat at political art, his satirical work and cartoons have appeared in Gila-Gila, Batu Api and Seloka 21, even Harakah and Suara Keadilan since the 90s. Follow his work on FB @hailikki and Twitter @kartunhaili