|Launch of the Social Inclusion Agenda|
|Wednesday, 15 August 2012 22:31|
By Farida Jivamala Ibrahim
Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM) and National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) unveiled at their media conference on 14 August at Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall a document that offers for our society possibly the most durable passage out of abject poverty and marginalization: The Draft Social Inclusion Act (SIA 2012). (Click on highlighted link to download.)
In their media statement highlighting the need for such an Act, SABM and HAKAM pointed out that the vision to achieve a just, equitable and inclusive society as enshrined in the Rukunegara proclaimed on 31st August 1970 had yet to be realized, almost 42 years on.
HAKAM’s Malik Imtiaz Sarwar stressed that today almost 40% of Anak Bangsa Malaysia are still trapped in the inter-generational cycle of poverty and inequality. “Give power to marginalized society,” he called. “Give them the means to help themselves.”
Malik Imtiaz said the urgent need is to focus on long-term solutions to bring about a socially just and more inclusive society and not temporary measures like “handouts and 1-shirt fits all prescriptions which are but temporary and will not lift our people from the societal quagmire.”
Jayanath Appudurai of SABM highlighted the worsening inequality since 1990 with frightening data: the Bottom 40% households have an average monthly income of RM1,529 compared to RM10,208 for the Top 20%; the income share of the Bottom 40% households is 14.5% compared to the 51% share of the Top 20% households; the income share of the Bottom 10% households is 2.0% compared to the 33.1% share of the Top 10% households.
“We are all trapped in and by the politics of ethnicity,” said Jayanath. “We need to entrust stewardship to an independent, non-partisan body.”
The Draft Social Inclusion Act makes provision for such a body. It proposes the establishment of a Social Inclusion Commission directly answerable to Parliament and given the mandate to oversee all matters related to poverty reduction, affirmative action and social inclusiveness.
The Commission is to comprise seven carefully-vetted members with no political affiliations who would be empowered to formulate policy, approve government agency programmes, provide funds, revamp delivery systems, conduct inquiries and surveys, establish intervention units, prevent leakages and end wasteful ventures.
A welcome move towards greater transparency and democracy is the requirement for all reports of the Commission to be made public and for the provisions of the Official Secrets Act 1972 (Act 88) to not apply to the reports.
What SABM and HAKAM have done is taken a radical but necessary step forward to help an impoverished and forgotten citizenry. They recognize, however, that what they have unveiled is not cast in stone but a work in progress and welcome views and different voices in public space. They also have plans to hold dialogues with stakeholders and political parties in the future.
“It is an idea which we are floating,” said Malik Imtiaz of the Draft Act. “Somebody has to start the ball rolling but we don’t own this document. What it becomes is what people make of it.”
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE SOCIAL INCLUSION AGENDA and THE PROPOSED ACT?
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