It’s the govt’s job to protect vulnerable groups

A survey conducted in Port Dickson recently by Selangor think-tank Institut Darul Ehsan reported that although voters had complained that they no longer received cash handouts and welfare aid as they did from the previous administration, they generally favour the current Pakatan Harapan (PH) government and would likely support the PH candidate in the PD by-election.

Kudos to the voters! They graciously accepted all the benefits the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government gave and voted for them in return until they decided it was time for a change and turned their noses at the privileges offered and voted in a new ruling party!

The perks are gone but the voters are willing to give PH a chance to improve their lot without the handouts. That speaks much of the desire of the voters for something better than immediate, temporary benefits and they are willing to trust the PH government to deliver.

The previous administration took advantage of the helplessness of the people by giving short-term benefits in exchange for votes. That is exploitation in the guise of “government aid”! No government should take advantage of its people, especially the poor, the helpless and the marginalised and give them handouts so that they are not free to make choices on their own free will,

These groups are vulnerable to being baited with carrot sticks because their conditions make them powerless to choose to decline. Manipulating them so that there is no freedom of choice is totally undemocratic. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that people are free from any sort of manipulation to make their own choices.

Every time a case crops up when people are manipulated, the government has to be quick to intervene and ensure that the people are free to choose unencumbered.

So, when politicians go on the campaign trail and dinners and concerts are given, the government must step in and ensure that the people are not being “manipulated” with free gifts even in the form of a free beach party or dinner. This wasn’t seen in the PD by-election.

Perhaps, that is the role of the Election Commission. Understandably, in the new Malaysia with new people helming institutions, it will take time to ensure a code of conduct for candidates on the campaign trail but some statement should have been made to indicate that we are heading in that direction.

It’s the same issue with the recent cases of alcohol poisoning. Those who died were right at the bottom of the social heap. While I’m not encouraging drinking into a stupor, I recognize that the poor don’t have the means to buy the more expensive but safer non-toxic drinks and are choicelessly exposed to unscrupulous manufacturers who exploit their poverty and sell adulterated drinks which are fatal.

Society should not sit by quietly and watch these people die. This is another situation where the government should intervene to protect the underprivileged. The government should move quickly to revoke the licences of such manufacturers and take the necessary action to stop such unwanted deaths.

It’s not for the government to moralise whether the victims’ choices or lifestyles are right or wrong. It is its responsibility to ensure that the vulnerable are not denied their rights and that their lives are not put at risk.

 

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