‘Children are precious,’ irony-deficient PM says after canceling free school breakfast

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob holds hands with his niece Wednesday as they celebrate World Children’s Day. Photo: Ismail Sabri Yaakob/Twitter
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob holds hands with his niece Wednesday as they celebrate World Children’s Day. Photo: Ismail Sabri Yaakob/Twitter

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is getting brickbats from Malaysians a day after celebrating World Children’s Day despite denying them critical food aid.

Malaysians slammed Ismail for professing his love for children days after making clear the little “gifts from God” weren’t entitled to any from his government, which announced it would not bring back a popular school breakfast program. That struck some as ironic, at best.

“The irony. Why has the free breakfast program been canceled? Isn’t it for children?” Drs_hvd tweeted in reaction to the prime minister’s post. Another user summarized his child-affirming statement as “BS.”

Two days after word spread the program had been cut, Ismail posed clutching the hand of his young niece and declared how important it was to protect the welfare of Malaysia’s wonderful, wonderful children.

“Today, my niece Jeanelle Nika Mandagie is here with me at the Parliament to celebrate World Children’s Day,” the 61-year-old tweeted yesterday, adding: “Children are close to my heart because they are precious gifts from God.”

Except deeds failed spectacularly to match words, as Izaanfly chimed in to say:

“Yet the government stopped providing free breakfasts to kids, which would have benefitted many families struggling to provide their kids with nutritious meals.”

The short-lived free breakfast program was introduced in 2019 to all primary students 7 to 12 by former education minister Maszlee Malik. It was canceled when Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration took over the following year, saying that existing nutrition plans which provide food and milk to poor kids were enough.

In Parliament two months ago, Maszlee called for the program to be reintroduced as it would benefit 2.7 million children, especially those whose families were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, only to get a big nope this week.

“The government has decided to stop the free breakfast program in schools, while the existing Supplementary Food Program and milk plan will be continued for poor students,” Education Minister Radzi Jidin wrote in his Monday reply.

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