“Dishing out MITRA funds to NGOs the problem, not which ministry’s keeping watch”

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday (Sept 18) announced that the Malaysian Indian Community Transformation Unit (MITRA) will be placed under the supervision of the Prime Minister’s Department.

Apparently, MIC had requested that MITRA be moved away from the National Unity Ministry.

I am not sure what was the reason for this move. Maybe MITRA was not well supervised under the National Unity Ministry.

Of late, MITRA has courted controversy. The recipients of MITRA funds, especially those in non-governmental organisations (NGOs), were subject to investigation.

A few were arrested and charged for the embezzlement of MITRA funds, which were meant for the socio-economic progress of the Indian poor.

Maybe the MIC was able to convince Ismail that moving the unit to the Prime Minister’s Department was the right thing to do. However, I don’t know how doing so might benefit the Indian community.

Even if the unit is placed under a new department, the MIC’s involvement in the management of the fund will be there. Furthermore, even if the MIC is excluded from interfering with MITRA, the question remains as to the actual role of the unit.

Is the unit going to engage in the same old practice of dishing out funds to NGOs like before? Giving out funds indirectly through NGOs is the source of the problem of MITRA.

It is this practice of indirect disbursement that allowed certain individuals and organisations to use the funds ostensibly meant for the Indian poor for their own benefit.

The shift of MITRA to the Prime Minister’s Department might be a good move but the problem of disbursement will remain. There is nothing to ensure the funds will directly go to the target individuals or groups.

“RM100 mil not a big source of funding”

On the other hand, RM100 mil is not a big source of funding for MITRA. It is a disgraceful pittance in comparison to the billions allocated to alleviate the socio-economic problems of the Malay community.

It is for this reason alone that the MIC should be fighting for more funds for the Indian community, not just for MITRA but others as well.

Unfortunately, the present MIC leadership neither has the clout nor substance to fight for the betterment of the Indian community.

Leaders from the MIC should desist from asking for breadcrumbs and instead come out with a socio-economic road map for the future advancement of the community.

On this basis, funds could be solicited to reach the target individuals and groups, not through the agency of the NGOs.

As I suggested more than a year ago, MITRA, rather than giving out funds, should be playing the role of a one-stop agency in identifying projects in Government developments that could benefit the Indian community.

Why not redefine the role and functions of MITRA with the aim of identifying other sources of funding for the Indian community? Why allow conflict and competition among different organisations to fester for the limited funds available in MITRA?

MITRA is a big failure as far as the Indian community is concerned. It serves no purpose to shift MITRA here and there when the focus should be on whether the Government has been fair to the Indian community all these years.

Regrettably, the MIC, with its token representation, is hardly in a position to honestly and bravely articulate the broad concerns of the community.

It is utter shame on the Government that the Indian community, which has contributed so much to the development and well-being of the country, remains neglected and marginalised.

Debating about MITRA is hardly going to make a significant impact on the development trajectory of the Indian community. A more needs-based approach is called for in addressing the socio-economic woes of not just Indians but other ethnic communities as well. – Sept 19, 2022


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.


Main pic credit: Facebook | Pusat Aduan Rakyat

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