Dr Sim vs Chong: Former Padungan rep continues to testify in court over Covid-19 food aid funds

File photo of the Kuching Court Complex.

By Dorcas Ting

KUCHING, March 23: In the defamation suit filed by SUPP president Dr Sim Kui Hian against DAP Sarawak chairman Chong Chieng Jen over an alleged defamatory statement regarding the allocation of funds for food assistance amid the Covid-19 crisis, former Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei continued to testify in court today.

Earlier during the cross-examination, when referring to a letter issued by the Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Children Development on March 31, 2020, regarding the issue of the allocation of RM200,000, Wong disagreed when asked if he agreed that all State assemblymen would be granted RM200,000 each to buy essential food items to hand out to needy families during the Covid-19 pandemic, irrespective of whether they are GPS or non-GPS ADUN.


He stated that in paragraph 3 of the said letter, it was stated that each DUN constituency is granted an allocation of RM200,000, and not the assemblymen.

During today’s cross-examination, Kong asked Wong about the meaning of the words “Kawasan DUN” in relation to the RM200,000.

Wong explained that it meant that each “Kawasan DUN” is allocated or budgeted with an allocation of RM200,000 for the purpose of providing food aid to the people within the “Kawasan DUN.”

He clarified that the wording of the letter is limited to stating that each “Kawasan DUN” is allocated or budgeted with an allocation of RM200,000, without mentioning the mechanism of how the RM200,000 was to be given.

Wong disagreed with the statement that when the government grants an allocation for a particular state constituency, one of the ways that the allocation is utilized for the benefit of the people is to channel the allocation to the banking account of the service center of the elected representative for that particular state constituency.

He also disagreed that, according to paragraph 3(i) of the said letter, all ADUN members were advised to take immediate steps to make orders for the supply of essential food items because ADUN members were not asked to make any purchase orders for the food aid supply.

He pointed out that the letter clearly stated that they had to wait for instructions from the Divisional Disaster Management Committee (DDMC) regarding the types of food to be purchased, and it also stated that the whole purchasing mechanism had to be done in cooperation with the DDMC.

When asked if he agreed that all ADUN should be granted equal resources or allocations for food aid to fulfill their social and electoral obligations, considering the global Covid-19 pandemic and the total lockdown in Malaysia through the Movement Control Order (MCO), Wong answered yes.

Referring to paragraphs 4 to 6 of the subsequently issued letter, Kong asked Wong if he agreed that the allocation of RM200,000 for opposition-held constituencies would be channeled to the service centers of the GPS state legislative assemblymen. Wong stated that it did not happen, although the letter stated so at that time.

Wong disagreed that, based on the letter, the allocation for N9 Padungan, N10 Pending, N11 Batu Lintang, and N12 Kota Sentosa was channeled to the service center of N14 Batu Kawah.

By referring to paragraph 3 of the official memorandum, he said it is stated that the ADUN service center will manage the purchase of food items, approve the invoice, and submit an application for payment. He further mentioned that paragraph 3 directly conflicts with paragraph 2 of the same memorandum.

“With regards to this matter, we made inquiries with DDMC, which is headed by the resident, to clarify the issue. We were informed that DDMC will be the agency to manage, control, make payments, and receive the allocation.

“This was well known to the defendant at that time. We, as ADUN, were invited to work together with the government agencies, particularly with DDMC, to ensure the smooth distribution of food aid to the people on the ground.”

When Kong asked Wong if he had any written letter or official memorandum that confirmed his answer regarding DDMC’s role in managing, controlling, making payments, and receiving the allocation, Wong stated that Paragraph 2 of the Memorandum Rasmi dated April 2, 2020, from the Ministry of Welfare Sarawak, clearly stated that DDMC is the agency responsible for receiving and making payments for the food aid programme.

He further informed the Court that when both the official memorandum and letter are read as a whole, it can be reasonably understood that DDMC is the agency in charge of managing and controlling the entire purchase process. Therefore, it cannot be the case where DDMC handles and manages the food aid along with payments, while individual ADUNs are also responsible for purchasing and making payments for the food aid.

He stated that paragraphs 3 and 4 in both the memorandum and letter directly contradict paragraph 2 of the memorandum and the letter.

“That is why any reasonable ADUN would call to verify and clarify the exact mechanism for implementing the food aid programme.

“In our case in DAP Sarawak, I called DDMC to verify the exact mechanism. We also received information within our group that other leaders in DAP Sarawak obtained the same information, confirming that DDMC is responsible for handling, controlling, purchasing, and distributing the food aid, including receiving allocation payment and making payment to suppliers.”

He emphasised that none of the RM200,000 allocation was channeled to any ADUN, including those from GPS and the opposition.

Kong asked Wong to point out where in paragraph 2 or any other part of the memorandum and letter it was written that DDMC would handle or manage the purchase of food aid items, as he could only see mentions of the allocation (“Peruntukan akan disalurkan”) and payment (“Pembayaran”) in relation to DDMC.

Wong responded that the letter must be read as a whole, with a reasonable understanding and comprehension that DDMC is the agency responsible for managing and controlling the entire purchase process.

He stated that verification must be made to ensure the exact mechanism employed by the government.

Furthermore, he stated that in this case, the defendant was well aware that DDMC was responsible for handling the purchase.

“That is why the list of those in need was submitted to DDMC and to the Chairman of DDMC, who was then Deputy Chief Minister and is now Deputy Premier, Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah.

“The namelist was personally submitted by the defendant to Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah.”

Wong also disagreed with the claim that each ADUN from Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) was allocated a sum of RM200,000 for the purchase of food aid. He disagreed that, according to the official letter and memorandum, the plaintiff’s service center for N14 Batu Kawah was allocated a total sum of RM1,000,000 for the purchase of essential food items for distribution to the needy, including N14 Batu Kawah, N9 Padungan, N10 Pending, N11 Batu Lintang, and N12 Kota Sentosa.