(the below is a letter published in Malaysiakini in March – link found here on Malaysiakini. The title of the letter is not by me though, added by the editor.)

I refer to the Malaysiakini reports Pakatan’s report card misleading, says BN and Cash for senior citizens: Penang ready for MACC probe.

It is very sad indeed that a small token of appreciation to the senior citizens is being politicised to this extent. If our politicians have the ability to see the big picture, they will probably see that it benefits the community in general. Therefore, anyone with some common sense will not go out of their way to kick up a fuss.

When this was announced by Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng at Pakatan Rakyat’s first anniversary event at the Esplanade, I remember the loud applause from the ground. He said it was in recognition of the contributions the senior citizens made towards the development of Penang. I personally though that it is a thoughtful gesture to the senior citizens many of whom are living lonely, neglected and forgotten lives.

In July 2009, together with another Citizen Journalist, we went to cover the registration of senior citizens at a Hindu temple. It was an eye-opener because there are so many people who had worked hard during their younger days serving the community. They may not be heroes nor anyone famous.

They used to sweep the streets of Penang, cleaning the drains or being janitors in the hospitals. But they are still they a part of Penang, people who worked to make it what it is today.

According to the report, Teng made a statement that if the Penang state government is sincere in helping needy senior citizens, the state could use the money to build old folks homes. Obviously, this is the kind of thinking that caused Gerkan to lose the state to Pakatan Rakyat. Teng fails to feel and understand. The RM100 token is in recognition of the old folks’ contribution. It is to make them feel special and remembered as a person.

Building old folks home will only encourage even more children to abandon their parents. That’s why Lim announced that an additional RM1,000 will be given to the old folks caregiver upon the demise of their aged parents. That is also to show appreciation to the children for the care and love shown to their parents. Therefore, the Warga Emas programme, as I see it, is a way to remind children to be caring to their parents.

Teng also claimed that the rich will also come forward to receive the RM100 and then use it to ‘buy lottery’. Again, Teng shown his disdain and mistrust for Penangites and not having faith that we are a caring society. I spoke to a few elderly ladies who came in their finery and luxury cars. They jovially told me they are going to donate the RM100 to charity because it is not often Penangites get money from the government.

Talking about charity, Lim has also announced that old folks homes which provide shelter and care to the senior citizens could act as the beneficiary. Hence, the RM1,000 will benefit these homes.

Lastly, as a Penangite, I feel insulted that Gerakan Youth implied that we Penangites can easily be bribed to vote for Pakatan based on a mere RM100. Our wisdom in choosing the better choice cannot be bought with money. That’s why Penangites have voted for a virtually untested, unpopular and financially poor coalition in the last election.

I respect Gerakan’s role in questioning Pakatan Rakyat’s government as it is their responsibility to be the watchdog to the CAT government. But isn’t there any grace or respect left for these senior citizens? Can’t they remain silent and let these people have some dignity and pride? Give the programme time to prove its effectiveness.