This it would do by bringing donations of food parcels and other needy items to the state's poverty-stricken areas, said Sabah PKR Deputy Chief Christina Liew Chin Jin Hadhikusumo, who heads the party's Society of Hope (SoH) in Kota Kinabalu (KK).
“This is a first for any political party in the country. Since the government's anti-poverty drive is going nowhere, we will make the difference,” she added.
The senior lawyer said this last night in KK when addressing a Chinese New Year fund-raising dinner in KK, of which party president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and several other party bigwigs from Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia were guests of honour.
For starters, said Liew, SoH will set up collection centres every Sunday from 10 am to 12 noon at four locations in KK: Luyang, Lido, Kepayan Ridge and Dah Yeh Villa, these being relatively affluent and largely urban Chinese, neighbourhoods in KK.
Liew is also the PKR division chief for KK.
“Basically, the idea is to collect donations of dried, canned and preserved food and other items from members of the public,” explained Liew.
“We welcome any contribution, no matter how small. It can even be a packet of instant noodles.”
She said SoH may also accept monetary contribution as well if members of the public prefer to do so, as SoH will also distribute cash to the deserving poor.
This will either be done directly, or through other NGOs, along with food parcels and other items sourced by the party.
The Sabah PKR leader does not expect the anti-poverty campaign to be smooth-going in the hard-core poor districts especially in the north.
Political obstacles to poverty alleviation
Citing personal experience, she alleged that various obstacles have been put in her way when she went to the ground to gather information on poverty.
“In Kota Marudu, I was warned recently by the federal Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Maximus Jonity Ongkili that I could not simply go wandering into the kampungs there by myself without permission from the District Office,” Christina told her audience.
“(Whereas) he should have been happy that we are trying to do something for the poorest of our poor,” she said of Ongkili, has represented the Kota Marudu parliamentary constituency for many years.
Christina also said she believes the SoH is being launched at an opportune time.
“We expect the cost of living in Sabah and the poverty level to rise further next year,” she said, citing the federal government's plan to introduce the GST (General Services Tax).
At the same time, the National Cabotage Policy (NCP) which will drive the cost of living in Sabah higher is not expected to be scrapped, as the powerful shipping lobby in Kuala Lumpur is expected to cripple MCA (Malaysian Chinese Association) financially if the NCP were scrapped.
MCA has traditionally held the federal Ministry of Transport.
Brunei, S'pore years ahead
SoH received a vote of confidence from Wan Azizah and PKR treasurer-general William Leong.
In his speech, Leong urged his Sabah audience not to be under the impression that what the federal government is 'milking' from Sabah and Sarawak is reaching the poor in Peninsular Malaysia.
“Kampung Chempedak in my constituency received piped water only after Pakatan Rakyat took over the Selangor government,” disclosed Leong, who is MP for Selayang.
“The people had to wait 50 years for a simple basic facility like piped water. We did it within four months of taking office,” said the lawyer.
Leong also pointed out that both Sabah and Sarawak had obtained a raw deal if contrasted with Brunei, which had stayed out of the federation, and Singapore which left it after two years.
“This can no longer be denied,” said Leong. “Singapore and Brunei are light years ahead of Sabah and Sarawak.”
Leong claimed that the sympathies of the man in the street in Peninsular Malaysia were with the people of Sabah and Sarawak.
“In 1963, you exchanged your British colonial masters for new colonial masters in Kuala Lumpur,” opined Leong. “Vote us in at the next general election and we will respect the Malaysia Agreement.”
It was Sabah and Sarawak that saved the Barisan Nasional when the coalition received a drubbing in Peninsular Malaysia at the Mar 8, 2008, general election, Leong recounted.
“In 1985 (Sabah) you were willing to change but we in Peninsular Malaysia
“The next time, we can do it together and bring about total change in the country,” added Leong, whose speech received a standing ovation.
Wan Azizah asserted Pakatan as being the ideal agent to bring about change. She said PKR vows to help free the country from the scourge of poverty, corruption, injustice and abuse of power.
“The submarine that you have at Sepanggar Bay is a stark reminder of everything that is wrong with the country. Although it is supposed to be brand new, it doesn't work,” said Wan Azizah.