AHMAD IKMAL ISMAIL
NAIB KETUA UMNO BAHAGIAN JERAI
WELFARE AID DENIED FOR HAVING ASTRO?
I was appalled when I saw the front page and the ensuing news coverage in the NST today. To quote the NST, “The Welfare Department has a ruling that bars the disabled from getting welfare aid if they have a television set or Astro at home. The rule even applies if one stays in someone else’s house, temporarily or otherwise”.
I could not believe my eyes when I read the story. I believe this particular ruling (if at all justifiable) was made quite awhile back when Astro was seen as a luxury item and was more expensive than it is now. However, given the developments and progress the network and the country have charted in recent years, Astro is no more expensive nor a luxury item. Television is a necessity more than anything now to receive news and information.
Television or Astro services do not only serve as tools to keep the disabled company at home or a diversion for the disabled who could not do work as mentioned by the Disabled Persons’ Integrated Family Services (Kioku). Television or Astro channels such as TV1, TV3, Astro Awani, Bernama News, CNN, BBC and Al-Jazeera to name a few have become a way for these people to access and keep abreast on news and events that are happening all over the world including those that happen in Malaysia.
More so, television and Astro channels such as National Geographic, TVIQ, Discovery and Discover Science channels are what we call as “knowledge based programmes”. These programmes are beneficial not only to the disabled but to all viewers. It would be absurd to think that just because one is disabled or receiving welfare aid, then one must not have any TV or Astro that could help him or his children learn more than just in a classroom setting.
In this regard, television and Astro have evolved from being just for entertainment to a more comprehensive tool including to teach, disseminate information and to give knowledge to the viewers.
We must move away from the mindset of wanting to help those in need “just enough to survive” but find ways and means to assist those in need to “survive and live their lives properly”. We must ensure that these people with their children be given a chance to fight their way out of poverty or the welfare group.
The issue highlighted by NST might just be the tip of the iceberg. There might be many more such rulings or practices in this ministry or other ministries that have problems of the same nature. I strongly urge this ministry to revoke this ruling. The cabinet should also direct all ministries to set up a committee tasked to review other rulings and practices that could be archaic in nature and irrelevant to present times.
We must change with times, and we must change to be people oriented in the Government’s service for the rakyat.
Ahmad Ikmal Ismail
Naib Ketua UMNO Jerai
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