Parti Bansa Dayak Sarawak (PBDS Baru) candidate Rapelson Richard Hamit, who receives welfare aid for his disability, criticised a federal minister today for accusing him of being ungrateful to the government by contesting the Tanjong Datu by-election.
“She is being petty and stooping so low as to raise up the issue and that is why I am sad,” he said, referring to Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Karim.
The Sarawakian federal minister had also claimed that Rapelson received RM500 monthly in welfare aid.
Rapelson, 31, said he has been receiving RM350 a month, not RM500 as alleged by Rohani, over many years.
“They (the state Welfare Department) were the ones who asked me to apply and not on my own initiative,” he told Malay Mail Online.
He said as an individual with disability, he has every right to receive welfare aid from the government.
“But it is an abuse of power if the welfare department decides to withdraw the aid later to take revenge on me for contesting as an Opposition candidate.
“Persons with disabilities have every right to contest in any election, either as an Opposition or Barisan Nasional candidates,” said Rapelson.
Rapelson, who holds a Bachelor Degree in Social Sciences (Hons) from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), was born without fingers on the right hand and only has a small thumb on his left hand.
He also has deformed toes on the right leg.
He considers himself as a worker with disability.
“I am a full time social worker, mostly helping the native customary rights (NCR) landowners doing community mapping,” Rapelson said, adding that he only receives a token sum from the landowners for his service.
He said the landowners contributed for his RM5,000 deposit and campaign fund for the by-election because of his active involvement in championing the rights of landowners in Sarawak.
Rohani, speaking at the opening of the “Suara Anda Tanggungjawab Utama” in Lundu yesterday, said she was saddened to see a recipient of the monthly aid was going against the government of the day.
Rapelson is facing the state Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate Puan Seri Jamilah Anu, the 62-year old widow of the late Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem, and State Reform Party’s Johnny Dom Aput, 54, in the by-election.
Polling is set for February 18.
Meanwhile, Ann Teo, chair of the Sarawak chapter of electoral group Bersih 2.0, said any citizen who fulfills the conditions set forth in the Federal Constitution has a choice to offer themselves as election candidates.
“A recipient of welfare aid or any other type of government aid, grants or loans, therefore, are not prohibited to offer themselves as a candidate in any election,” she told Malay Mail Online.
“The fact that we belong to a parliamentary democracy means that we as voters can exercise our rights to choose the candidate that best fits our political ideology and aspirations, based on his or her past performance or track record and of course, his manifesto or promises to the voters,” she said.
Sarawak For Sarawakians (S4S) civil movement leader Peter John Jaban asked Rohani to tender a public apology for her hurtful remarks.
“Her remarks against Rapelson are not right and therefore, she should apologise to him,” he said.
He said the minister’s remarks have also hurt the feeling of disabled individuals who are also receiving the welfare aid.
“Why stop a disabled individual, who is recipient of government welfare aid, from contesting in an election?” Jaban asked.
PBDS Baru president Cobbold John Lusoi defended his party’s decision to field Rapelson in Tanjong Datu by-election.
“He stands for the rights of all NCR land owners, not just the Dayaks but also the Malays,” he said.
He added that Rohani should give Rapelson credit that despite being a disabled person, Rapelson was willing to fight for what was right for the people.
Source : @ Malay Mail Online