KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 — Paulyn Anak Embu, a 43-year-old black pepper farmer who lives in a longhouse in Julau, Sarawak, applied for single mothers’ aid after her husband died in January, leaving her alone with seven children.
However, the government rejected her application in July, on the basis that Paulyn was still “young”, had two working children, and because she did not suffer from any chronic diseases, according to Julau MP Larry Sng.
“I ask for equal constituency allocations for all Members of Parliament, regardless if they are Opposition or government,” Sng said while debating Budget 2021 in Parliament last Monday.
“Each Member of Parliament has surely received complaints and applications from people who were left out of government initiatives,” the PKR lawmaker added, citing Paulyn’s story.
“How many others are like Mrs Paulyn, who desperately need aid now, but fall through the social safety net? Individuals like these will continue to ask for aid from the Member of Parliament’s service centre. Without sufficient allocations, we cannot help them.”
Sng told CodeBlue later he had given Paulyn RM500 from his salary.
Malaysiakini reported that this year, under the-then Pakatan Harapan federal administration, a government MP may apply for up to RM3.5 million in allocations, comprising RM2 million for development and RM1.5 million for grants and donations.
Government MPs also receive an additional RM300,000 per annum to cover the cost of running their service centre. Early this year, Sabahan and Sarawakian backbencher MPs are also given an extra RM500,000, on top of the RM3.5 million.
An Opposition MP, however, can only apply from the federal government for a maximum of RM100,000 annually in allocations in development, and grants and donations. These lawmakers are not eligible for the service centre or the special East Malaysian MP allocations.
Sng noted that the development expenditure for Sarawak in Budget 2021 fell to 6.5 per cent out of the overall federal budget, from 7.8 per cent the previous year. Sabah’s development portion declined to 7.4 per cent from 9.3 per cent.
“Are these allocations sufficient to narrow the gap between regions in our country that is increasingly widening?” he questioned in the Dewan Rakyat.
He pointed out that Sabah topped the 2019 absolute poverty index at 19.5 per cent, while Sarawak was in third place at 9 per cent.
Sng also highlighted the gap in health facilities in East Malaysia compared to the peninsula, noting that in 2018, the number of public health clinics (Klinik Kesihatan) was one for every 13,129 people in Sabah, while Sarawak’s clinic-to-population ratio was a little better at 1:11,682.
“The Sabah and Sarawak ratios are more than two times bigger than Pahang, which has the best ratio in the country, at 1:5,048.”
The Sarawakian MP noted that last year, 15.5 per cent and 8.4 per cent of households in Sarawak and Sabah respectively lived more than 9km from a public or private health facility, the highest proportion in Malaysia.
Sng stressed that each Member of Parliament best understood the needs of their constituency, saying: “You can’t beat this pandemic with only half of the country behind you”.