Dr Sim vs Chong: First witness claims meeting minutes of food aid supply chain committee never disclosed to ADUNs

File photo depicting the Kuching Court Complex.

By Dorcas Ting

KUCHING, May 10: Former permanent secretary of the Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing Women, Family and Childhood Development Dr Sa’adiah Abdul Samat stressed that the secretariat of the food aid supply chain committee had never disclosed the meeting minutes to any members of the State Legislative Assembly (DUN).

Dr Sa’adiah is the first witness of the defamation suit filed by Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) president Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian against Democratic Action Party (DAP) Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen over a Facebook post posted by Chong regarding food aid supplied during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period in the State in 2020.

During the cross-examination conducted by Chong’s counsel Michael Kong, Michael referred the witness to the minutes of the meeting dated March 30, 2020 of the food aid supply chain committee, and according to the meeting’s minutes, she agreed that at that point of time, the Chief Minister has approved the allocation totaling RM16.4 million for food supply assistance.

The allocation was channeled to service centres and the execution of the assistance was to be carried out with the DDMC, while the channeling of the allocation to ADUN service centres would be done through the accounts registered with State Implementation Monitoring Unit (SIMU).

Michael continued to say that the witness had earlier in her cross-examination testified that the meeting’s minutes was never revealed or made known to any members of the State DUN.

The witness also stressed that the secretariat reports to the committee and not to the individual DUN members.

She also stressed that the distribution of the food aid was done and implemented by the DDMCs throughout Sarawak and the Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development was not involved in the distribution.

Dr Sa’adiah agreed that as far as the state food aid programme is concerned, the value of a food basket for each constituency is different as different constituencies have different needs and relevancies. The value is determined by the DDMC and not by the ministry because DDMC knows best the needs of the people in areas under them. However, she disagreed that the elected representative for that particular state constituency would know best as to the needs of his or her voters.

She disagreed that respective GPS ADUNs have a say in determining whether to allocate a higher value per food basket in order to cater to the local needs of the people.

During the re-examination done by Shankar Ram, Shankar referred to the first and second Facebook posts by the defendant and asked the witness which paragraphs were false and misleading, after which Dr Sa’adiah answered that the two Facebook postings as a whole are false and misleading and she said the postings targeted Dr Sim.

She said the reason why she said the postings were false and misleading was because the food aid programme did not discriminate against any individuals who are in dire need of food.

Secondly, no funds were channeled or given to any ADUN members and ADUN service centres but was done through DDMC who managed and controlled the funds.

Thirdly, she said as a member of DDMC, all ADUN members be it in the GPS or in Opposition parties can participate with DDMC in the food aid programme. Finally, they did not receive any reports of any Opposition parties being excluded or being rejected by DDMC if they went forward and assisted DDMC in the distribution of food.

She clarified that Dr Sim was never involved in any decision making of the food aid programme. She also stressed that Dr Sim was not in control of the RM1 million food aid fund because the funds were managed and controlled by DDMC.

Dr Sim was represented by Counsels Shankar Ram, Russell l Lim and Yiu Ying Ying whereas Chong was represented by Counsels Chong Siew Chiang, Michael Kong, Brenda Chong and Sim Kiat Leng. — DayakDaily