KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 ― Perikatan Nasional (PN) ministers have displayed laziness and lack of initiative in finding solutions to problems befalling Malaysians, former deputy minister for women, family and community development Hannah Yeoh claimed today.
Yeoh, who is DAP’s Segambut MP, also highlighted shortcomings in policies and work performance by the women, family and community development minister and her deputy ministers.
In a biting rebuke against the performance of the months-old Perikatan Nasional government, Yeoh said the popular slogan of “#KitaJagaKita” ― started as a grassroots call for Malaysians to help each other out during the Covid-19 pandemic ― is actually a stern admonishment against the current government as it reflected the latter’s alleged incompetence.
“Ministers take a lazy attitude, are not proactive and this attitude of not caring will not cause the problem to disappear, but will only increase the people’s sufferings,” she said in the Dewan Rakyat in her debate speech on the government’s proposed Budget 2021, but without naming these ministers.
What the women ministry can do better
Pointing out that the current Cabinet was appointed shortly before the movement control order (MCO) caused many programmes to be cancelled, Yeoh said ministers and deputy ministers should have time available to attend parliamentary proceedings and go through policies or meet with stakeholders, but suggested that they have failed to carry out such duties.
“I am made to understand that babysitters and operators of childcare centres (taska) and kindergartens are still unable to meet with the women minister or her two deputies, the education minister or his deputy.
“What’s the point of being busy if affected stakeholders do not have the chance to meet policymakers who should be championing their plight?” she asked.
Yeoh also highlighted as an example that the women ministry only called for one meeting for the committee on domestic violence in the eight months since Perikatan Nasional came into power, questioning what priority was being placed on the welfare of vulnerable groups facing domestic violence issues.
Yeoh said the government’s RM21 million allocation for local social support centres such be given to non-government groups that truly carry out work such as the Women’s Aid Organisation (Wao) instead of being used to garner voter support in PN-ruled states, noting that opposition states such as Selangor should not be neglected as it has higher number of social cases due to a high transit population.
Noting the Budget 2021’s RM30 million allocation for childcare centres at government buildings, Yeoh urged the women, family and community development ministry to use such funds to set up more childcare centres at Covid-19 frontliners’ workplaces such as hospitals, police stations and government agencies.
Yeoh however said she was made to understand that the women ministry only processes applications for childcare centres to be set up if it comes from the secretaries-general of ministries overseeing government agencies seeking such facilities.
“For example, if an application for frontliners’ childcare centre came from one police station, the women ministry will not approve that application as it must be presented by the ministry of that agency. I call this bureaucracy.
“I ask for an explanation because I view this as only an administrative problem. Let us not prioritise bureaucracy until the children of frontliners become the victims,” she said, while also urging the women ministry to allow the RM30 million to also be used to increase the capacity of existing childcare facilities at government hospitals to enable more doctors and nurses to have their children taken care of there.
Clear SOPs needed
Yeoh urged the government to finalise its standard operating procedures (SOPs) before issuing them to the public, instead of making frequent changes or directing Malaysians to cross-refer to or wait for different ministries to make further announcements.
She cited the example of the recent SOP for the work-from-home directive, which she said was “confusing and half-cooked” and had caused great uncertainty to the business community when every day of operations is crucial for businesses.
Yeoh also urged ministers to learn to coordinate among themselves before making decisions, highlighting as an example the SOPs for institutions of higher learning to be closed, and for kindergartens which come under the education ministry to be closed, while childcare centres coming under the women ministry’s scope were allowed to open and parents are allowed to work.
“This appears to give the impression that this Covid-19 has a choice to choose their victims based on age and the jurisdictions of ministries.
“What is the most frightening to us is that if Covid-19 does not kill our economy, the incompetence of ministries in the coordination of these SOPs will kill economic sectors,” she said.
Among other things, Yeoh also asked for the latest status on the national suicide registry which she said would provide crucial data and statistics for intervention to be carried out, further pressing the government on when it would abolish existing laws that makes it a crime to attempt to commit suicide.
Arguing that water supply is a matter of national security, Yeoh called on the federal government to immediately set up a special task force together with the Selangor state government and Negri Sembilan state government to address the problem of frequent pollutions of rivers ― which are a key source of water.
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