KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor should try his hand at soup kitchens to learn more about the city’s homeless, Nurul Izzah Anwar said today.
The PKR vice-president added that the short stint was the least the minister could do before making a decision on fining soup kitchens and punishing the homeless.
“Even if Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor cannot afford to live like the homeless for three days, at least attend one session of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) before deciding on the matter.
“I invite the honourable minister to join me and a soup kitchen NGO which will operate tomorrow night,” she said in a statement here.
“We have to have empathy, especially as a leader,” the Lembah Pantai MP added, saying that Tengku Adnan’s remarks ran contrary to what the holy month of Ramadan is about.
She pointed out that giving alms and assisting those in need were qualities encouraged by Islam and practiced by Prophet Muhammad himself.
Nurul Izzah also demanded that Tengku Adnan retract his proposal to impose fines and penalties on the homeless and those who assist them.
The PKR leader pointed out that the federal government has yet to allocate resources within the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry to assist the homeless, warning that the situation was bound to get worse until and unless Putrajaya took a more proactive approach in the matter.
“I urge Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor to retract his suggestion, and at the same time urge the government to find better ways to tackle the issue of poverty and homelessness from its root cause, not just by getting rid of the symptoms,” she said.
In the United Kingdom, RM2.2 billion was set aside in 2010 and eight government departments, under the leadership of the UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government banded together to solve the rise of homeless folk over there, Nurul Izzah pointed out.
She added that NGOs in the UK working with the homeless also received training and legal advice from the National Homelessness Advice Services while in the Europe, over 130 organisations under the European Federation of National Organisations working with the Homeless (FEANTSA) worked round the clock on how to provide social, medical and housing services for the hardcore poor.
“In all of this, there is not one policy which talks about punishing the homeless or fining alms givers. The problem is addressed through proper studies and research which has the full support of the respective governments,” the Lembah Pantai MP stressed.
Tengku Adnan said earlier today that soup kitchens will be fined if they do not shift out of the capital city by Monday
The Federal Territories minister said he has instituted a 2km-radius around shopping mall Lot 10 in the Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle business hub, where non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are prohibited from feeding the homeless.
The minister also called the homeless “lazy”, saying that some work only for a couple of days before quitting their jobs.
He claimed that soup kitchens were dirty, drawing rodents that spread diseases like Leptospirosis, and dengue.
The minister added that the government has plans to build a shelter for the homeless, but claimed that street people would become “complacent” and want to stay there “all the time”.
He said if the homeless wanted to get food, they could go to temples and mosques outside Kuala Lumpur.
Tengku Adnan further said that fines would be imposed on those who give to beggars.
The government will launch Monday a move codenamed Ops Qaseh by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry on Monday to get the homeless off the streets.
According to statistics sent by the Women’s Ministry to The Malay Mail Online, there were 1,646 homeless people throughout Malaysia as of 2010, with 1,387 homeless in Kuala Lumpur; 150 in Georgetown, Penang; 99 in Johor Baru, Johor; and 10 in Kuching, Sarawak.
The statistics show that the majority of beggars are locals, not foreigners.
The number of destitute people or beggars dropped from 1,434 in 2010 to 1,048 last year.