Joint Press Statement of BERSIH 2.0 and ENGAGE (29 March 2020): NGOs’ Support to Vulnerable Communities is Essential Services and Should be Allowed to Operate during MCO

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) and ENGAGE, co-organisers of #MakanKongsi project that provides free food vouchers to vulnerable communities, call on the prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to consider civil society organizations’ aid and support to vulnerable communities as essential services.  

We support the call of over 120 civil society organizations yesterday that NGOs involved in food relief and daily support for the vulnerable communities should be allowed to continue their operation. They should be allowed to travel without hindrance or harassment from law enforcement agencies in order for them to deliver their services in a timely manner to the communities in need in this time of crisis.

In view of the fact that the Movement Control Order (MCO) has been extended to 14 April 2020, many individuals and communities are facing hardship without job and income for a whole month. This is further compounded by the restriction of movement under the MCO and the possibility of MCO being further enhanced in many areas the coming days following the imposition of such order in Kampung Dato’ Ibrahim Majid and Bandar Baru Dato’ Ibrahim Majid in Simpang Renggam, Johor on March 27, making it difficult for them to get the help and support that they used to have access to during normal time. 

We are concerned that the access to support and aid by vulnerable communities will be completely cut off following the statement of the defense minister Sabri Ismail yesterday requesting civil society organizations to stop delivering their support and aid directly to the vulnerable communities, instead send them to Social Welfare Department in the local district, where by Rela and National Civil Defense personnel will do the house-to-house distribution.

Civil society organizations that are supporting these vulnerable communities, such as homeless people, single mothers, Orang Asli and Orang Asal, refugees, undocumented migrant workers etc, have been working with them for many years and as such, know exactly where they are and have gained trust from them. Civil society organizations would be able to deliver these services to them in a timely manner instead of losing time on bureaucratic procedures of handing over to Social Welfare Department, Rela and National Civil Defense personnel.  

These vulnerable communities may also be fearful of law enforcement officers who have taken action against them in the past. These may result in these vulnerable communities shunning law enforcement officers and lead to unsuccessful delivery of aid and support that they urgently need.     

BERSIH 2.0 and ENGAGE therefore urge the government to consider civil society organizations as important partners in this fight against Covid-19 and take these support and aid to vulnerable communities during the Movement Control Order (MCO) as essential services.

We strongly believe these civil society organizations will not only adhere to the principles and guidelines of the Ministry of Health in their operation, but also assist the Health Ministry to impart the necessary knowledge of preventing Covid-19 to these vulnerable communities.     

To enable civil society organizations to continue to extend essential services to these vulnerable communities in a timely manner, we recommend:

  1. The permission to travel for these civil society organizations during MCO should be granted as long as civil society organization officially notify the National Security Council (NSC) in writing of their initiatives and services to the vulnerable communities. 


  1. The NSC should notify and update regularly all the law enforcement agencies the list of these civil society organizations that are delivering services to the vulnerable communities.


  1. The list may be made public on the website of the Prime Minister’s Department for verification purposes in case of any dispute. 

Such policy would enable civil society organizations to run its operation on the ground smoothly and support the government in making sure that no one is left behind during this MCO period. It would prevent any misunderstanding or untoward incidents between the law enforcement officers and the workers and volunteers of civil society organizations.


Released by:

The Steering Committee of BERSIH 2.0 and ENGAGE