The world we live in is an abode of no love – if you can’t work for your food, nobody will do it for you, and you’ll have to fend for yourself as your neighbours are refraining from showing you love and care. Even if you’ve lost in the battle of survival, life moves on as the law of nature has proven well to heal itself.
It’s the reality of my dwelling place where poverty has no place in the society. The weak, the feeble, the poor, the needy and the outcast who have fallen by the way side; are seen as nothing but a shadow of filth – lazy, disgusting, unhygienic and worst brings shame to the society and that’s the subtle message from the authority to us, ‘Rakyat’.
Images from www.youtube.com/Reach Out Malaysia
These outcast of the society will be rounded up as their fate are sealed by the imposition of the latest rule – “Beggars and those who help them face a fine“, while the “homeless can be detained for up to 6 years under law“.
The Perspective of the Authority
Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor – “We don’t want to see beggars on our streets. We also want to stop the syndicates behind the begging activities. Jobs had been found for beggars and vagrants but some were just lazy to continue working. The image of the city is bad. If we don’t do this, people will not be disciplined. The soup kitchens run by non-governmental organisations to feed the homeless would also have to move out of the city centre from next week or face a fine in efforts to clean out the capital city of beggars and vagrants.” [More]
The Perspective of the Poor, Weak, Needy and Outcast
Their stories – “I don’t want to bring up my past, it upsets me. I don’t know how to explain it.”, “I used to work at a restaurant, they cheated me and refused to pay me. The work was tough and I have to be there from 4am to 6pm.”, “I get lorry job once a while – sometimes 5 days a week in a month and luckily there are NGOs providing food to us or else we won’t have enough to go through”, “My children and grandchildren will not help, what am I to do? I’ve called them, they said they will come, but never do. A month I have to pay RM420 for rent but I can’t afford that. So the house owner auctioned all my things, so now I sleep here.”
The Perspective of those Volunteers on the Ground
Founder of Reachout – “There’s no real difference between the rural and urban poverty. It’s the same issues, it’s just a slightly different order. The reason we deal with urban poverty is that you have to take this type of work a step at a time. It’s much easier to get the awareness by dealing with the urban issues. More people can actually come out, get involved in your program as an NGO. Once that happen, you’ve built up your base of volunteers, your sponsors, people who contribute things for the people on the street, then you can start to extend your program in the rural areas which we are doing.
The program we deliver is to fight this tide – we’ve got stop the rural people from coming into the city by educating them with the fact that it’s not easy when you arrive here, jobs are not easy to find, jobs don’t pay a big salary, so you would be better staying at home and finding work at home. And that’s the next phase of this type of development in dealing with poverty is how do you create those job opportunities in the rural areas and other states so that the guys don’t have to leave that state and actually come to KL to try and find jobs.
We’ve engaged the government many times, particularly the Ministry for Women, Children and Community Development about how to resolve this issue. We actually wrote a strategy paper for them on how to solve this problem but unfortunately it hasn’t been taken up at all. It was accepted by the Ministry but nothing has been done.
So if you ask me if they are doing enough? No. Are they doing the right things? No. Can they do more? Yes. Is there an intention to do something then I think there is, yes there is an intention. It’s the deliverable that has to happen. They have to actually physically do it instead of just talking about it. We do it, we are on the street now. It’s a quarter of two in the morning, on a Sunday morning and we’re on the street. Where are the government agencies? They are not out. So they must do more than just talking about it.”
The Struggle by the Rakyat for the Rakyat
There’s a price to pay for every action but it boils down to this, is it worth it?
Translation: ‘food is the rights for all’
Image from http://www.therakyatpost.com/
The Founder of Pertiwi Soup Kitchen, Munira Abdul Hamid – “Soup kitchen operators will not stop what they have been doing despite warnings from Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor that anyone giving away food to the homeless in the city would be fined. The good deeds will be continued as they felt there was nothing wrong with what they had been doing since March 2010.” [More]
“Soup kitchens in the capital city say they won’t abandon the Kuala Lumpur’s homeless and are ready to defy a minister’s order to move out by Monday. The kitchens, run by NGOs, do not get public funding and say they provide service that is desperately needed.” [More]
Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor – “Putrajaya was determined to clear the homeless from the city and had restricted programmes by non-governmental organisations to feed them.” [More]
Soup Kitchen story – “Soup kitchens more than just feeding the poor, says founder. My friend was in remission from cancer when she said I should start a soup kitchen. And in April 2009, she asked me again to launch it as soon as possible but she died a week later. Munirah said she was pleasantly surprised and amazed by the overwhelming support the soup kitchen had received from private companies, non-governmental organisations and donors. We’ve started giving medical services two years ago and then a hairdresser volunteered to give free haircuts to the homeless who couldn’t afford to get one. We are helping to share with people who are struggling to make ends meet, who cannot afford to eat regularly. Is that wrong?
Her volunteers, too, have become like family, she said, adding that many have forged relationships in the soup kitchen. It has brought together many people. We have seen many volunteers meeting through the soup kitchen and getting married. Tengku Adnan has misunderstood this – They are not beggars. They are people who have jobs but do not have enough money to have a place to stay and put food on the table. Some mothers come with five children and they might stay in a small room in Chow Kit while the husband is away in prison. This gives her a reprieve and her children do not have to go hungry.
I know I am going to be facing some tough days ahead but I am prepared, she said. For people like Munirah, giving is not just about writing a cheque, it is being able to touch somebody’s life, to borrow the words of American media proprietor, talk show host, and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey.” [More]
Exchanging of Fire Power: Authority vs. Rakyat
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim – “Today tourists were taking advantage of the soup kitchens meant for the homeless and that everyone had misunderstood what her colleague Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor had said when he told the charities to shut their activities by today. Sometimes, tourists too, line up (to get food) because they don’t know. They think Malaysia is so generous in giving food to everyone.” [More]
Pertiwi Soup Kitchen founder Munirah Abdul Hamid lambasted the minister – “Rohani’s statement was a blatant assumption. She’s crazy for making statements as such! She doesn’t listen. We have explained to her before, in fact months ago, that soup kitchens don’t feed tourists and beggars. Why doesn’t she come down and see for herself? [More]
“But you know what? The less Cabinet Ministers speak about soup kitchens, the better it is for everybody. At the very least, it won’t betray their silliness. Why is it the government’s problem if tourists are apparently eating at soup kitchens? Is the government paying these soup kitchens to feed the city’s homeless and poor? If anything, it should be the charities that are operating the kitchens who should be complaining.
And if tourists do find Malaysians generous, isn’t that better for Malaysia? Why would the minister stop such a fine practice? She might as well tell Malaysians, even the Cabinet, to stop open houses during festive occasions then. The thing is, soup kitchens organised by the various charities are showing up what her ministry’s welfare department lacks in terms of helping the homeless and the poor. Hence, her ministry should support them, rather than ask them to relocate outside Kuala Lumpur’s shopping district. [More]
Sara Sukor, co-founder of Need to Feed the Need – “the tourists were only curious and denied any had lined up for the free food. Yes, they have asked us what we were doing after taking notice of the queues but when we explain that we are running a soup kitchen they say ‘good job’ and get on with it. It is heart wrenching to see some of them… I don’t know what’s up with the statements by the ministers lately“. [More]
Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor – “The federal territories minister now wants to organise a town-hall meeting with the homeless to hear their complaints, following criticism over the banning of soup kitchens in Kuala Lumpur. the move was to help them improve their lives“. [More]
Lawyers for Liberty spokesperson Michelle Yesudas – “The coalition consisting of soup kitchens, NGOs and a lawyers’ group are preparing to provide legal help to the homeless. All along we have been defensive in handling this harassment against the homeless, but I think it is time for us to go on the offensive against all of these actions because no one has gone head-to-head with authorities yet. They were preparing to challenge provisions in the Destitute Persons Act 1977 (DPA 1977), which the authorities are planning to use to detain vagrants in an operation called Operasi Qaseh.
The biggest issue with the DPA 1977 is that it allowed authorities to target people for being poor, criminalising them for their economic status. Under the act, the authorities have the power to detain a homeless person and produce him or her in front of a magistrate before imprisoning them.
The way I interpret the Act, it seems very much like the Internal Security Act because the homeless are denied access to legal advice. It’s almost like imprisonment. She described the act as being completely unconstitutional as it breaches Article 5 of the Federal Constitution, which provides the right to individual freedom, as well as international standards. What we are seeing here is a misuse of criminal administration because after they are captured under Ops Qaseh, they can be persecuted under other laws.” [More]
[Latest] 10 July 2014 – “Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak visited a soup kitchen in Kuala Lumpur last night, after his government was roundly criticised over the past week for banning such charitable activities in the capital city. Putrajaya has now delayed the ban on soup kitchens from a 2-kilometre radius of Lot 10 in the Bukit Bintang shopping district until after August 16, in view of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan where charitable acts are encouraged, but Kuala Lumpur’s charities say they will continue providing food for the homeless and poor.” [More]
The Responses of the Rakyat
Image from http://www.therakyatpost.com/
“Netizens, activists and a casual fine dining restaurant have gone, all guns blazing, slamming Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s calls to ban soup kitchens with creative images to show their support for Malaysian soup kitchens.” [More]
“Apparently, doing good in Kuala Lumpur is a bad thing. Is that why the city authorities have not made any such endeavour to feed the poor and homeless, or at least provide centres for charities and groups to carry out such activities in the capital city? Instead, the minister is warning organisations that have been caring for the least and last in society, something the fat cats in Putrajaya should have been doing.
So, instead of saying thank you, he is threatening these organisations. How’s that for gratitude? How’s that for showing that Malaysians do care for the poor and less privileged? How’s that for deciding to ban such activities during the Ramadan fasting month, when Muslims are enjoined to do good, not bad? And why are the city authorities doing this? To maintain the image of the city for tourists and visitors. Good show, Mr Minister.” [More]
“All hell broke loose when Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor made a statement to chase out the homeless in the city; now his ministry is spinning another story – that it is providing a solution! How ironic that this is not coming out from Tengku Adnan’s own mouth, but from his ministry officials. This is what makes every city folk fume with the minister’s latest fiasco, synonymous of the party which he represents. It makes me wonder if anything good can come out of Umno these days.” [More]
“OMG this is wrong and insane on so many levels I don’t even know where to start. First of all, Tengku Adnan. Have you no empathy? Have you ever stopped to think of what it’s like to be homeless? To have no home and to live on the streets? To forage and worry about where your next meal is coming from? Or are you too rich that you can’t imagine? Is money covering your eyes that’s why?” [More]
Where is the Kindness, Empathy, and Concern for the Rakyat?
Food is fuel to the body, they say. Yes, indeed it is!
When there’s no food on the table, life becomes a constant struggle. Going around with growling empty stomach is a misery, watching your child rubbing the belly in pain and grief becomes an agonizing sight, worse envy and fury gradually loomed and filled your heart as you eye your neighbours of better life; suddenly, poverty becomes real to you as you can feel its affliction tormenting your soul.
The bitterness of life does not stop there, seeping out slowly your physical being weakens with each passing day, day and night does not matter anymore and your circumstances in life had driven you to a corner where there’s no escape road. Life becomes empty, void and miserable, and NO, it’s not a figment of imagination!
It can strike at anyone regardless of colour, social class, and nationality as it quietly sneaks into the lives of those unprepared, careless, ignorant and beats the shit out of anyone. Past or present, it’s a baggage that comes in different wrappings. It’s a social problem that does not happen overnight nor is it to be solved overnight. It has to do with our lifestyle, the way of living, our attitudes and outlook of life.
The woes of the Rakyat on this issue are loud and clear, the issue is spot on how the authority tackles poverty in the urban and rural areas. Indeed food matters but how these fallen out citizens are treated is a sensitive matter. If the authority is unable to show empathy towards them, what is there left for the rest of us? Yes, Rakyat wants the nation to be successful but how the authority go about doing it, the Rakyat have voiced their disapproval.
It’s sickening and insidious to step on the weak and the defenseless citizens who have been outcast by the society. Never be ignorant and heartless towards the mundane hardship and misery of the ordinary citizens because life spins in mysterious circles, what you do or don’t do will come back to haunt you. Rakyat are living beings and they are the building blocks of the nation, therefore their welfare should be taken seriously with greater accountability and their lives should be protected by the universal Human Rights.
This issue is a humble reminder to the authority that it’s the Rakyat who owns the authority and the country, NOT the other way round.