Modern-day Olivers but with a Twist

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 13 Apr 2017

PETALING JAYA: Forced to beg on the streets, these orphans are modern-day “Oliver Twists”, lining the pockets of unscrupulous syndicate members who have them in their grip.

They are beaten whenever they underperform, and face mental and emotional abuse while at the unregistered orphanages which do not follow government guidelines.

Suriana Welfare Society for Children chairman James Nayagam said making orphans beg was not only degrading and dangerous, but also exposed them to a life of crime.

“If they do not cooperate or bring back less than a certain amount in a day, they are only fed a teaspoon of water and a teaspoon of rice.

“Those who resist are beaten with wooden rods,” said Nayagam.

He said the Council for the Protection of Children, which is overseen by the Government, discussed the issue of unregistered orphanages in 2013 when it was found that there were over 2,000 of them nationwide.

“Many of the children at these centres are not actually without parents. In most cases, their parents remarry or find new partners who do not want the children from the previous marriage,” he said.

“They give parental consent for the children to be placed in these orphanages. But the orphanages need funds because they are not eligible for government aid.

“That is when we find orphans in the nooks and crannies of big cities, earning their keep by begging or selling items like books and pens.”

According to human rights group Suhakam, many unlicensed orphanages were operated by religious centres, especially in Kedah and Perlis.

A former Suhakam commissioner, Nayagam said the group had contacted various agencies to help address the matter but to no avail.

“Because of this, the illegal orphanages act as if nobody can touch them,” he said.

He recommended providing training and eventually registering such orphanages instead of shutting them down.

“Training will enable them to reach the required standards,” he said.

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