Malaysia’s poverty levels far higher than reported, UN expert says

UN special rapporteur said the national poverty line would mean a family would live on less than $2 per person a day. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 August 2019

Malaysia’s poverty levels far higher than reported, UN expert says

  • Malaysia’s official poverty rate dropped to 0.4% in 2016
  • Independent groups said the actual poverty rate is 15%

KUALA LUMPUR: A UN human rights expert on Friday disputed Malaysia’s assertion that it has nearly eliminated poverty, saying that official figures were vastly inaccurate and do not reflect realities on the ground.
Malaysia’s official poverty rate dropped from 49% in 1970 to just 0.4% in 2016.
But Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said the official numbers relied on outdated measures, with the poverty line remaining at the same level for decades despite increasingly high costs of living.
Analyzes done by independent groups suggest that Malaysia has “significant poverty” and that its true poverty rate was about 15%, Alston said.
“The government’s official figures would make it the world champion in eliminating poverty ... but I think it’s pretty obvious that that’s not the case,” Alston told a news conference at the end of an 11-day visit to Malaysia.
The prime minister’s office and finance ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Alston’s assertion.
Alston said the national poverty line of $234.00 per household per month was “ridiculous,” as it would mean an urban family of four would have to survive on 8 ringgit, or less than $2, per person per day.
“It can’t be done except under really dire circumstances,” he said.
Undercounting the poverty rate has led to a lack of effective government policies targeting the problem, with too many underfunded and ineffective programs in place, Alston said.
He urged Malaysia to reassess its methods for measuring poverty and take into account vulnerable groups excluded from the data such as stateless families, migrant workers, and refugees
“Only then can Malaysia begin devising policies that can systematically address their needs,” he said.


Indian woman who alleged gang rape dies after burn attack

Updated 07 December 2019

Indian woman who alleged gang rape dies after burn attack

  • The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men that included two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year
  • The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest

NEW DELHI: An alleged rape victim in northern India who was set on fire while heading to a court hearing in the case has died in a New Delhi hospital, officials said Saturday.
The woman was attacked in the state of Uttar Pradesh by a group of men that included two of the five she had accused of gang rape last year, police said. The two were out of custody on bail.
Five men were arrested in connection with the burn attack, police said.
The 23-year-old woman suffered extensive injuries and was airlifted Thursday from Uttar Pradesh to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, where she died late Friday of cardiac arrest, said Dr. Shalab Kumar, head of the hospital’s burn unit.
Yogi Adityanath, the state’s chief minister, said that the case would be heard in a fast track court and that the “strictest of punishment will be given to the culprits.”
Priyanka Gandhi, general secretary of the opposition Congress party, faulted the Uttar Pradesh government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, for failing to provide the woman with security, even after a similar case in the state in which a woman who accused a BJP lawmaker of rape was severely injured in a vehicle hit-and-run incident.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is known for its poor record regarding crimes against women. According to the most recent available official crime records, police registered more than 4,200 cases of rape in the state in 2017 — the most in India.
Government figures for 2017 also show that police registered 33,658 cases of rape in the country. But the real figure is believed to be far higher as many women in India don’t report cases to police due to fear.
Indian courts also seem to be struggling to deal with these cases. Data shows that more than 90% of cases of crimes against women are pending in city courts.
The burn victim’s death came on the same day police in the southern state of Telangana fatally shot four men being held on suspicion of raping and killing a 27-year-old veterinarian after investigators took them to the crime scene. Their deaths drew both praise and condemnation in a case that has sparked protests across the country.
The woman’s burned corpse was found last week by a passer-by near the city of Hyderabad, India’s tech hub, after she went missing the previous night.
Police took the four suspects, who had not been charged with any crime, to the scene to help them locate the victim’s phone and other items, officials said. They said the men grabbed police firearms and began shooting, and were killed when police returned fire.
The Telangana High Court ordered authorities to preserve the bodies of the suspects and submit a video of the autopsies ahead of a court hearing set for Monday.
Separately, the National Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous body within India’s Parliament, sent a fact-finding mission to the crime scene and mortuary where the suspects’ bodies were held on Saturday amid questions from opposition lawmakers about the circumstances of the suspects’ deaths.