KUALA LUMPUR: The Talian Kasih hotline saw a 500% increase in calls during the movement control order (MCO) enforced from March 18, says Datuk Seri Rina Harun told the Dewan Rakyat.
According to the Women, Family and Community Development Minister, prior to the MCO, the average number of calls Talian Kasih received was around 4,000 a month.
However, in April alone, Talian Kasih received 20,305 calls, said Rina during her winding-up speech in Parliament on Tuesday (Aug 4).
She said the hotline was operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the MCO, and received a total of 62,999 calls so far.
Out of that number, 59,359 or 96% of the calls were regarding the free food baskets distributed by the Welfare Department (JKM) for the needy, said Rina.
Kasthuri Patto (PH-Batu Kawan) subsequently interjected, saying that the hotline had two weeks of inactivity during the initial phase of the MCO.
“Maybe the minister has forgotten that there was no Talian Kasih hotline during the MCO and when people called 15999 (Talian Kasih), they were diverted to 999.
“Many Opposition MPs and activists took to social media on this (matter), tagging you and the ministry to ask why the Talian Kasih hotline was suspended for two weeks, ” she said.
Following Kasthuri’s remarks, R.S.N. Rayer (PH-Jelutong) stood up and said welfare matters were important and should not be politicised.
In response, Rina said the Talian Kasih hotline was not shut down for two weeks. She said it was "suspended" as they were working with the National Security Council (NSC) at the time to streamline all phone inquiries during the MCO into a single number.
“I’m not playing politics.
"Firstly, it wasn’t closed for as long as two weeks. I remember this because I, myself, was at the ministry to ensure that the Talian Kasih was reopened immediately.
"This was because on the first day, we were trying to coordinate with the NSC to streamline all calls during the MCO into one number.
“It wasn’t two weeks, and I’m asking Batu Kawan to check again, ” she said.
Kasthuri then said there was a voice recording saying that the Talian Kasih was closed from March 18 until 31.
“As mentioned earlier, this is untrue because we ensured that Talian Kasih reopened. I have a few figures regarding the calls we received, ” Rina replied.
Kasthuri subsequently pressured Rina for a response, but was cut short by Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.
“It was already answered by the Minister that there were attempts to streamline it into a single number and then it was reopened again, ” said Azhar.
Meanwhile, Hannah Yeoh (PH-Segambut), who also intervened during Rina’s speech, said that the distribution of free food baskets to the needy should not only be done by parties belonging to the ruling coalition.
“If the MCO is implemented once again, don’t give it (food baskets) to only political parties to distribute. If you want, ask for help from the Opposition as well, ” she said.
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