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When the powerful steal from the poor

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It is disgusting when such misappropriation of funds is committed by individuals who claim to be the champions of their ethnic community, writes Mustafa K Anuar.

It is a cruel irony that poverty in a community could become a convenient source of enrichment for those in power, especially when the institutional mechanism of checks and balances is inadequate if not inexistent to prevent abuse of power.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department P Waytha Moorthy recently revealed that some portion of funds meant to uplift the socioeconomic standing of the poor in the Indian Malaysian community was diverted to a minister and two deputy ministers in the previous administration.

The funds were disbursed by the Socio-Economic Development of the Indian Community unit (Sedic) that was set up by the previous Barisan Nasional government specifically to help the Indian poor.

It is disgusting if and when such misappropriation of funds is committed by individuals who claim to be champions of their ethnic community and supposedly looking after their general welfare and interests. A betrayal by a wolf in sheep’s clothing, you could say.

Graft of this nature is even more repulsive as the heinous acts of the predatory culprits have the effect of squandering away opportunities for the poor to get out of the vicious cycle of deprivation. The poor clearly could do with a leg-up.

It is equivalent to having, say, certain officers of the zakat (Islamic tithe) agency caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Zakat is meant to help out the poor and the needy in society – and not for the officers to help themselves.

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Whoever is culpable should hang their heads in shame as such immoral deeds are clearly a travesty of justice.

Such malpractices are indeed not uncommon in our society and have been committed by other supposed champions of their respective ethnic communities in the past. All the more reason for strict preventive measures to be put in place.

One can hardly emphasise here the importance of transparency and accountability, especially in dealing with immense funds that in reality are taxpayers’ money. Stealing public money should not be made a new normal.

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad himself had reiterated recently the significance of imbibing principles of transparency and accountability that are vital towards ensuring the success of the “shared prosperity” vision.

Hence, it is hoped that the Malaysian Indian Transformation Unit, which was created by the Pakatan Harapan government to replace Sedic and which has been allocated RM100m of funding, would conscientiously implement various programmes aimed at improving the living conditions of the Indian Malaysian community, particularly the bottom 40% cohort.

There has to be an effective mechanism to ensure that money for such programmes goes towards the legitimate beneficiaries, especially when large budget allocations are often made in their name.

For that matter, financial “leakages” in all socioeconomic programmes aimed at improving the living standards of the poor, irrespective of ethnicity, religion and political persuasion, should be tightly plugged.

This is to ensure not only that these economic programmes are run effectively and would benefit the targeted groups but also that national coffers are not shrunk by such predators.

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If sufficient measures are not taken, we as a nation would be all the more impoverished.

Source: themalaysianinsight.com

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