Beggars choose to take the easy way out

Friday September 4, 2009

TAKE a walk around the city or any of its suburbs and you are almost guaranteed to run into a beggar. These beggars are usually disabled, old or very young and they sit along the pathways waiting for a handout.

Those who beg tend to frequent places with high traffic like night markets or outside banks or gambling outlets in commercial areas.

A trader at the SS13 night market in Subang Jaya said he had seen various individuals, including handicapped children and adults, old folks and mother-and-child pairs begging at the night market almost every week.

Asking for sympathy: A mother and child seen begging at the SS13 night market in Subang Jaya.

The trader, who identified himself as Lam, believed that the beggars are part of a syndicate as his friend, who is a trader at the Kepong night market, has also seen the same faces.

“Someone will drop them off at the designated night market and they will find their way in before sitting down in the middle of the path to beg.

“I have actually seen the beggars wear old and torn clothing while begging, only to change into something cleaner before boarding a special taxi that comes to take them home,” he said.

Lam, who has been trading at the SS13 night market for three years, suspects that the beggars are mostly foreigners from countries like Cambodia and China and are attached to a syndicate that brings them around Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia to beg.

Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) Licensing Department director Ismail Salim said the council could conduct joint operations with the Social Welfare Department (JKM) in an effort to tackle the beggars.

In plain sight: A badly scarred individual seen begging at the Section 17 night market in Petaling Jaya.

Noting that there were also beggars in other public places like mosques and food courts, Ismail said that it was public sympathy that encouraged the beggars to continue looking for a handout.

“They will continue coming back as long as people give them money. If they genuinely need aid, they can always contact the JKM,” he said.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun echoed similar sentiments by saying the public should stop sympathising with beggars and donating money as it offered them an easy way to earn money.

“What the public needs to do if they spot any beggar is to call the Talian Nur or report to the nearest JKM office. There are more than 100 JKM offices located in each district office in Malaysia,” she said.

Chew said the Talian Nur operators would note the callers’ information and refer them to the relevant authorities and let them know what they should do.

High traffic: The beggars choose places where there are a lot of passers-by to maximise their gains.

To address the begging syndicate issues, Chew said the JKM conducts scheduled operations once or twice a week at areas with lots of street beggars, as well as joint operations with various agencies like the local councils, Immigration Department, National Registration Department, National Anti-Drugs Agency and hospitals.

“If a child (aged under 18) is found during the operation, then the Child Act 2001 will be used,” she said.

(Section 32 of the act states: Any person who causes or procures any child… allows that child to be on any… place for the purposes of begging, receiving alms, whether or not there is any pretence of… performing or offering anything for sale; or carrying out… illegal activities detrimental to the health and welfare of the child, commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.)

“The JKM protection officer will rescue the child and place him or her in a welfare home within 24 hours,” Chew said.

“A court order will be obtained from the magistrate’s court to place the child in a welfare home for the next 30 days while the officer prepares a report.

“If the child is found to have a family member or relative who can care for them, we will send them back.

“Putting them in a welfare home is the last option as we believe it is best for the children to grow up in a loving family environment.”

If they are to be put in a home, Chew said, the children would be placed in an orphanage or Rumah Tunas Harapan, a home that is run by couples with their own children.

The Ministry provides allowances for the relatives or Rumah Tunas Harapan families to care for the children.

Meanwhile, if adults are found during the operation, they would be rescued under the Destitute Person’s Act 1977.

“They will be placed in a welfare institution within 24 hours and a 30-day court order will obtained while the officers investigate their case,” said Chew.

“If a family member or caregiver cannot be found, they will be placed in a welfare home for three years. Those aged above 60 will go to the Rumah Seri Kenangan old folks’ home, while those under 60 will be placed in Desa Bina Diri workshops to learn soft skills.”

She stressed that welfare organisations and charities cannot use children to solicit donations.

“If an association wants to solicit donations in commercial or residential areas, they will need to get permission from the JKM and a police permit,” she said.

Talian Nur’s number is 15999. For a list of JKM locations and contacts, visit (search under directory).

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