KUCHING: The Federal Government should reconsider its decision to discontinue the 1Malaysia People's Aid (BR1M) handout as many rural Sarawakians still need it, says Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri James Masing (pic).
He said the BR1M recipients were poor, not by choice but due to circumstances beyond their control.
"Tun Mahathir (Mohamad) must understand that some of our people use 'tongkat' not by choice but by necessity. Take Sarawak as an example.
"Sarawak is one of the poorest states in Malaysia. Most BR1M recipients in Sarawak are from rural areas, who are disadvantaged in terms of connectivity, education and amenities.
"They are smallholder farmers at the mercy of agricultural diseases, pests and unpredictable weather," Masing said in a statement.
He was responding to the Prime Minister's remarks that the "tongkat" (crutch) needed to be removed from the people so that they could be independent.
Dr Mahathir had said this when announcing in a recent interview that BR1M, which has been renamed Bantuan Sara Hidup, would be reduced and eventually discontinued.
Masing said PRS supported the present government's policy for more transparency and to investigate if there was any element of corruption in BR1M.
However, he said the deserving poor as well as the poorer states in Malaysia still needed federal assistance.
He also reminded the Federal Government that it had used "tongkat" from Sarawak's oil and gas resources to develop Peninsular Malaysia.
"So please, Tun, have a heart and consider that some states and Malaysians are still in need of 'tongkat' to survive. BR1M is a good example of such necessity," he said.