KUALA LUMPUR, March 8 — Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs will discuss the findings of the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (Unicef) latest report on marginalised children among the urban poor during the debate on the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V’s royal address.
BN Backbenchers Club (BNBBC) chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Samad said it hoped the debate would allow government lawmakers to address the issues raised in the report.
“I sympathise with Klang MP who had his motion to debate urban poverty affecting children rejected,” said Shahrir in reference to DAP lawmaker Charles Santiago, who was rejected by Parliament Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia.
The emergency motion to discuss child poverty was rejected as Pandikar said the issue was not of immediate public interest.
At the end of Question Time, Santiago urged Pandikar to reconsider by insisting the matter was serious and affected many at-risk children in Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Putrajaya.
“BN representatives will give the chance to debate on it during the debate on the Royal address,” said Shahrir.
The Johor Baru MP said BN lawmakers will also act on the recommendations of the Unicef report.
He said although the report had highlighted the poverty and malnourishment of children living in low-cost housing Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR), Shahrir said a multi-pronged approach was needed to tackle poverty, and not from an income perspective only.
“What I found encouraging from the report is that even though the children are poor, the study found that their academic achievement were at par with the national average level.
“This goes to show despite being in such conditions, from an academic perspective, they are not left too far back,” he said.
Shahrir said it was important to remember that the poor do not always have a voice.
He said the government had to encourage social groups and NGOs to involve the poor in more social activities.
“We have to seek them out. They are not only poor in terms of income, but also information as they are not involved in social activities,” he said.
Shahrir said the study should not be viewed negatively so that the report’s findings are addressed.
“We are not in denial... we know while the government has executed a noble idea in approaching the issues of the people, which we will refine.
“We would like the issue and the measures to overcome this problem to be incorporated in the BN election manifesto,” he said.
Shahrir said he had recommended to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak earlier today that universal childcare should be part of BN’s manifesto.
“I told him we had successfully fulfilled most of our pledges made five years ago, so why don’t we look into pledging universal care for children for the next elections... He is considering it,” he said.
Unicef had last month published a 76-page report consisting of data collected from a survey of 966 household heads and 2,142 children in 17 different locations around the capital and Petaling Jaya.