Dr Sim vs Chong: Former Padungan rep testifies all ADUNs treated equally in distribution of Covid-19 food aid

The court complex in Kuching.

By Dorcas Ting

KUCHING, March 24: Former Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei denies claim that opposition assemblymen (ADUNs) were not treated equally in terms of the RM200,000 food relief fund allocated to each State constituency during the Covid-19 outbreak.

He said this today when continuing his testimony in the defamation suit filed by Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP) president Dr Sim Kui Hian against Sarawak Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman Chong Chieng Jen over an alleged defamatory statement regarding the allocation of funds for food assistance during the Covid-19 crisis.

In his cross-examination, defense counsel Chong Siew Chiang put it to the witness that non-Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) assemblymen were not given the right to enjoy the advantage of the RM200,000 food aid fund allocation for purchasing essential food rations to distribute to needy families during the MCO. Wong agreed.

However, he disagreed with the assertion that the distribution of the said food aid allocation for non-GPS ADUN constituencies was done through the service centres of GPS ADUNs, as specified in the official memorandum.

He also disagreed with the claim that DAP ADUNs and other opposition ADUNs were not equally treated in terms of enjoying the allocation of the RM200,000 food relief fund. Wong stated that all ADUNs were treated equally.

When asked about who recommended him for the appointment as the chairman of the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (LPKP) in February 2020, Wong mentioned current Transport Minister Anthony Loke and believed that other leaders in DAP as a whole forwarded the recommendation to the Prime Minister or Cabinet. He said he was not aware of the actual process of his appointment, and the decision was conveyed to him by Loke.

When questioned about challenging the accuracy and correctness of official letters and memoranda issued by the Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family, and Childhood Development, Wong stated that he verified the accuracy and correctness of those documents with the authorities. He acknowledged that the content of some official letters and memoranda were contradictory, and in such cases, he considered it as challenging their accuracy and correctness.

Meanwhile, during the cross-examination, defense counsel Michael Wong, while referring to the sixth paragraph of a second Facebook post by the defendant, asked Wong, who was the Padungan assemblyman at the time, if he received any information about the delivery of food aid by the Sarawak Welfare Department.

Wong stated that he received the information about the delivery of food aid when he received a call from the minister-in-charge of Welfare, Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah. She informed him one morning that the State government had distributed food aid to the needy people within his constituency of Padungan.

Wong testified that Fatimah further invited him to keep the Divisional Disaster Management Committee (DDMC) updated if there were any more people within the Padungan constituency who were in need of food aid.

He also informed the court that whenever he or his team members called the officer in DDMC to request help in the distribution of food aid or to gather information about the food aid distribution within Padungan, they were responsive.

When asked if he had the namelist of recipients of food aid since he received information about the delivery by the Sarawak Welfare Department, Wong stated that he did not request the namelist because he understood that many people preferred not to disclose that they were receiving food aid.

“That is also the case during our distribution of food aid on the ground.

“Since I did not request the namelist of the recipients due to an understanding of data protection, I was not supplied with the namelist.”

When asked if he was contradicting himself in court regarding the availability of a namelist for food aid distribution, as he previously stated that Sarawak DAP distributed food aid door-to-door without a namelist, but now claimed that many people were not willing to disclose their information, Wong disagreed.

He stated that the question was a total twist of words. For the case of Arang Road Flats, the DAP team was instructed by the defendant to distribute food aid without a namelist provided by the defendant. Arang Road Flats falls under the defendant’s former state constituency of Kota Sentosa.

However, for the Padungan constituency, the distribution of food aid conducted by DAP was based on the namelist they gathered from public requests.

“In Padungan’s case, we distributed according to the namelist that we gathered, but not in the case of Arang Road Flats under the Kota Sentosa constituency.”

“We were given the task by the defendant to distribute food aid door-to-door for the case of Arang Road Flats to create the impression that we were faster and more efficient than SUPP in terms of food aid distribution.”

Wong informed the court that the main purpose of testifying about the food aid distribution at Arang Road Flats was not just to provide aid to the needy, but to paint a negative picture against SUPP and the state government, suggesting that the state government was inactive or inefficient.

He further stated that for the namelist they gathered for the Padungan constituency, they kept it private and confidential due to data protection concerns for those who requested and received food aid.

In response to a query whether he had the namelist of recipients who received food aid from DDMC, Wong stated that he did not request the namelist from DDMC, although he knew they distributed food aid based on a namelist they possessed.

The reason was that he understood that many recipients preferred not to disclose their details to those handing out the food aid.

On this note, he expressed his respect for the professionalism of the officers in DDMC by refraining from asking for the namelist.

When asked if he was involved in the purchase of food aid from suppliers by Sarawak DAP Sarawak during the Movement Control Order (MCO) period in April and May 2020, he stated that he was not involved, except for some urgent cases where he and his team personally contributed.

He testified he was not involved in the purchase of food aid by Sarawak DAP, as that was mostly handled by the defendant.

When questioned about the distribution list for Padungan on a daily basis, he clarified that there was no specific distribution list. They had a namelist of those who requested food aid, and he and his team arranged the distribution based on different areas, day by day, depending on the situation.

He explained that during the pandemic period, it was challenging to systematically organise the work due to a lack of manpower and restricted movement imposed on Sarawak DAP. Therefore, their capacity was limited, but they made efforts to help as much as possible.

He expressed appreciation for the Sarawak government’s initiative to mobilise government machinery on the ground to assist the people, and he acknowledged the effectiveness of the food aid policy with an allocation of RM200,000 budgeted for each State constituency. — DayakDaily