DAP Youth chief urges Putrajaya to count aid groups as frontliners

Jerry Choong
DAP Socialist Youth chief Howard Lee said such groups already have the information needed to ensure the rapid and efficient distribution of aid, as opposed to requiring the government to take over these activities. — Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, March 29 — NGOs, youth organisations and charity bodies should be classed as frontliners in Malaysia’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, said DAP Socialist Youth chief Howard Lee.

The government asked such groups yesterday to stop their aid distribution to the poor and homeless, telling them to observe the movement control order with the rest of the country.

Lee argued today that such groups were providing an essential service to society by easing the burdens of frontliners like medical personnel and the police. 

“NGOs, youth organisations and charity bodies who seek out funds, gather and send food supplies and essential goods to those outside the welfare system should be considered as unsung heroes and auxiliary support to our frontliners in the war against this pandemic,” Lee said in a statement. 

The Pasir Pinji assemblyman added that such groups already have the information needed to ensure the rapid and efficient distribution of aid, as opposed to requiring the government to take over these activities.

“There are many members of society isolated and left out of any form of government aid, or are excluded from the government’s welfare policy. As Malaysians they too deserve aid in this crisis.

“The government ought to grant approval for these NGOs, youth organisations and charity bodies to provide assistance on the basis of their expertise and training. We must also acknowledge and be aware of the fact that the exhaustion of frontline personnel has reached a critical stage,” he said.

On the subject of minimising the risk of Covid-19 infections from spreading, Lee said this could be addressed by requiring such groups to adopt the compulsory use of personal protective equipment or attending specialised training.

“To be extra careful, it can also be required for a Civil Defence Force (APM) or a People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) member to accompany and monitor such groups. Such an approach would be more effective than blocking them from continuing their aid.

“Our stance is that the prohibition of NGOs, youth organisations and charity bodies from providing aid is self-defeating, on par with preventing the Armed Forces, the police and medical practitioners from carrying out their duties. We urge the government to withdraw their announcement, which threatens the rakyat’s welfare in this trying time,” Lee said.

Yesterday Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said NGOs and other similar organisations will no longer be allowed to directly deliver food to recipients, since it would defeat the aims of the extended Movement Control Order, which expires on April 14.

Although he expressed the government’s thanks to the NGOs for providing food, Ismail Sabri said they will now have to send the food to Welfare Department centres in each district which also serve as collection points, where Rela and APM personnel will oversee its distribution.

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