An opposition MP has chastised National Unity Minister Halimah Mohamed Saddique for allegedly holding a briefing on Malaysian Indian issues on the same day as the Ponggal celebrations.
Calling her “insensitive”, DAP’s Ipoh Barat lawmaker M Kulasegaran claimed that the minister’s briefing on the upcoming Indian Community Action Plan (PTMI) has been scheduled for next Saturday (Jan 14).
He urged her to change the date and include a discussion on the controversial Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit (Mitra) in the agenda.
“Despite being the national unity minister, she is clueless that Jan 14 coincides with Ponggal, a multi-day harvest festival [...]
“Just to introduce Halimah to Ponggal, it is the time of the year where an Indian family will boil rice, milk and brown sugar in decorated clay pots until it spills over, which signifies abundance and prosperity. It is a joyous festival.
“It is unacceptable that a national unity minister is insensitive to the different cultures and festivals in this country so I ask the minister to reconsider the date of the meeting and to include the agenda of the missing funds from Mitra into the meeting that will be on a different date,” he said in a statement today.
Along with his statement, Kulasegaran included a letter from Halimah to Dewan Rakyat speaker Azhar Azizan Harun that mentioned the Jan 14 briefing.
Malaysiakini has contacted Halimah’s office for comments.
The PTMI is an action plan that lays out the government’s short-term and long-term targets for developing the Malaysian Indian community.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaacob reportedly said last month that it would be launched “soon” but did not state a date. He also announced that the cabinet will set up a special committee to ensure PTMI targets are achieved.
Mitra briefing cancelled
Mitra, meanwhile, made headlines last year when it was embroiled in a funds embezzlement scandal.
On Nov 17, 2021, Halimah had promised the Dewan Rakyat to hold a briefing to allow the opposition to ask about Mitra.
Kulasegaran later claimed that this scheduled briefing had been cancelled and questioned why, cautioning the minister against “covering” up for any crimes.
Last year, the MACC arrested 17 company directors who had handled Mitra grants.
As part of its investigation, it scrutinised 205 recipients of Mitra funds and found indications of false claims for non-existent programmes and activities.
The enforcement agency said on Nov 22, 2021 that it was almost done with its probe into 10 Mitra grant recipients and would next seek advice from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
BN set up the Socio-Economic Development of the Indian Community unit (Sedic) back in 2017.
The Pakatan Harapan administration later restructured it and renamed it Mitra.
The initiative receives some RM100 a million a year to identify issues faced by the Malaysian Indian community, carry out socio-economic development activities and coordinate public-private cooperation towards developing the community.