Minister defends ‘Ops Qaseh’, says to save vagrants from ‘danger’

PUTRAJAYA, July 7 — As criticism mounts over the government’s initiative today to rid the national capital of vagrants, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said “Ops Qaseh” aims to save and rehabilitate the homeless from the dangers lurking in the streets.

“Ops Qaseh is to match them with the right kind of help they need... like the elderly, above the age of 60, there is danger lurking on the streets, so why put them in my institution?” she asked, rhetorically.

“Although institutionalising them is the last resort... when there is no one to care for them I prefer to take them in and it is the same for children, whose parents have unsafe occupations... better than leaving them on the streets,” said Rohani.

The Batang Lupar MP told reporters today that the ministry wants to ensure “no one is permanently homeless”.

“And we want the NGOs that operate the soup kitchens to be our strategic partners,” said Rohani, attempting to fender the outrage caused by Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor last week.

Tengku Adnan courted controversy last week when he said soup kitchens would be barred from operating within a 2km zone in the city centre, after saying these were dirty, attracted vermin that spread diseases like Leptospirosis, and dengue.

The ministry has since sought to contain the public relations damage by saying it is merely setting up a “one-stop centre” to combat vagrancy in Kuala Lumpur.

Ops Qaseh, which kicks off today, involve the police, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, the Social Welfare Department, the National Anti-Drug Agency, the Immigration Department, the National Registration Department, and other enforcement agencies.

Rohani had previously told The Malay Mail Online that it was ensure that there would be no more beggar and vagrants on the street with the appropriate protection.

The Malay Mail Online understands that under the operation, those aged below 60 years of age would be placed in centres where they would be given shelter, rehabilitation, counselling and vocational training, while the homeless aged above 60 years would be placed at homes. Both facilities are located outside the capital city.

Those who suffered drug addictions or mental illnesses, for example, would be handed over to the Anti-Drug Agency or the Health Ministry.

“They will be given care and rehabilitation for three years and can be released early under two conditions, as per Section 8(1) of the Destitute Persons Act 1977, which are: The authorities are satisfied that the resident has obtained appropriate work to sustain themselves or has been released to someone who can support and take care of them,” Rohani said then.

People lining up for food at a soup kitchen in Kuala Lumpur, June 23, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May
People lining up for food at a soup kitchen in Kuala Lumpur, June 23, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

However, the ministry will also continue to operate “Anjung Singgah”, a halfway home frequented by urban migrants and vagrants.

The facility which was initiated in 2011 temporarily homes them for two weeks to enable them to seek out employment.

According to Rohani,  735 people out of the 1,560 who patronised the halfway home have been matched with jobs relevant to their skills.

As of 2010 there were 1,646 homeless people throughout Malaysia, with 1,387 homeless in Kuala Lumpur; 150 in Georgetown, Penang; 99 in Johor Baru, Johor; and 10 in Kuching, Sarawak.