Tuesday March 29, 2011
Welfare dept bent on eradicating KL of beggars
By FAZLEENA AZIZ
Photos by LOW BOON TAT
It is not an easy job because the officers from the department have to deal with various people and situations while carrying out operations.
Often the officers have to use their persuasive powers to get the beggars to follow them while some had to be carried into the truck.
When it involves women and children, female officers are called in to handle the situation.
Federal Territory Welfare Department deputy director Mujah Hamad said begging was now more of a profession.
“People used to beg for food and money. But now even if the beggars have a comfortable home, they still go out into the streets to beg.
“In genuine cases, they usually have family problems so they end up on the streets.
Some of these beggars may be disowned or abandoned by their families,” he said during an operation last week.
A total of 18 beggars were caught under Section 3 (2) of the Destitute Persons Act 1977 in the operation in Chow Kit, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Bukit Bintang, Metro Prima Kepong and Jalan Peel in Kuala Lumpur.
Once caught, the victims are documented and sent to Desa Bina Diri in Kuala Kubu Baru.
The Welfare Department will then file papers in court to get a temporary holding order, requiring the person to stay at the centre for 30 days.
After investigations, the court can order the beggars to be sent for rehabilitation at Desa Bina Diri in Mersing, Johor, and Desa Bina Diri Jerantut, Pahang.
Those aged between 18 and 59, are placed at Desa Bina Diri for rehabilitation and vocational training while those below 18 are placed at the Rumah Kanak-kanak/Rumah Budak Laki-laki under the Children Act 2001.
Those over 60 years with no relatives or caretakers or no source of income will be cared for at Rumah Seri Kenangan.
While waiting to be documented after the operation, several Myanmar women and children were caught begging in Bukit Bintang.
The women with babies said their husbands had left them and they had to find money for the sake of their children.
A young Myanmar girl and her sister who were caught in Bukit Bintang said begging was the only way to get money for the family.
The girl who was born here speaks fluent Bahasa Malaysia and said there were 11 of them at home.
“My mum earns very little to take care of the children and we don’t receive money from the United Nations refugee agency anymore, so how are we to survive.
“Some of us go to school, so we need the money otherwise we won’t have anything to survive on,” she said, adding that begging was the only available option.
The department also picked up some abandoned old people in Jalan Peel based on complaints received.
An old fragile Chinese woman and an Indian Muslim man with poor hearing and vision were seated in the van waiting to be transferred to a home.
The old woman said she lived with her son but he was not at home most of the time.
“I have to resort to wearing pampers and I hate it.
“I had a hard life where I used to sell coffee and often had blisters from the spilled hot water,” she added.
There was also a case where an old Indian man chose to follow the department officers because his children no longer wanted to take care of him due to his unpredictable behaviour.
There were three “colourful” beggars nabbed in Bukit Bintang.
The three men had painted their faces and clothes in gold dust to earn some money.
Mujah, who spoke to the three of them, revealed that they were jobless and were ex-convicts.
They said it was hard to find any job in the city but Mujah assured them that there were opportunities if they were not so choosy.
Senior community welfare assistant officer Darus Hassan, who coordinated the operation, said they had to move fast to nab the beggars to prevent them from running away.
For Darus, some of the beggars are “repeat offenders”.
“I know most of them as I have caught them a couple of times before.
“Each time I place them at the centre, they manage to escape and get back to the streets.
“However, some of them have progressed and live a good life now.
“It is not easy to get rid of these beggars because in some places there are syndicates operating and we have act very tactfully to catch them,” he said.
Darus added that he always prepared the officers before any operation because the beggars would use tactics to get themselves out.
“Usually the beggars will say they have a home and that they are only here for a short time to rest.
“In the case of women and children, they will start to cry.
“But we must be resilient and immune to all of this, otherwise we cannot get any work done.
“At the end of the day, they must be taken off the streets,” he said.
Darus spends his evenings and free time roaming and scouting areas that are hotspots for beggars and tries to save them from the syndicates