Poor who rely on free meals go hungry

Waiting for better times: Homeless people at the Komtar bus terminal on the third day of the MCO in George Town, Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: Trishaw rider Rosman Alwi, 53, has not been able to find enough money to buy food since the movement control order (MCO) began.

Although Rosman managed to give a ride to two tourists from Johor on Thursday, he was stopped by police and told to send them straight back to their hotel.

“I have been waiting at the Goddess of Mercy Temple for someone to deliver free meals but nobody came.

“If there are too many of us waiting there, police or city council enforcers will come and make us go home.

“But I have no food at home. The NGOs used to give daily meals. I cycle to all the places that they used to deliver food but they have stopped doing it. I am so hungry now, ” he said yesterday.

The reporter later gave Rosman RM10 to buy food.

With free food being stopped for the time being, many of the poor are going hungry.

The trishaw riders in Penang are usually much older and do not earn as much as those in Melaka.

When contacted, state Welfare and Caring Society Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said he would advise Rosman to go home.

“I am going to have to be cruel. My advice to Rosman is to go home. Please stay at home until March 31 and stop wandering about.

“I am well aware of the situation. Because of all the panic buying, the hypermarkets and supermarkets no longer have leftover food to donate to the Mutiara Food Bank. Our stock is very low now.

“The Welfare Department is working with charitable bodies to prepare food and deliver door-to-door for the needy.

“Most of the poor have homes. Please go home. We are working hard to plan a safe way to help you, ” he said.

Penang Community Care, a group that gathers food and sundry supplies for the poor, said it stopped delivering meals on the streets.

Its president Wendy Ang said if welfare officers were frontliners and allowed to go out, her society was willing to find a caterer to cook meals for the officers to deliver.

“I agree that we shouldn’t give food on the streets during the MCO. We can end up spreading Covid-19 among the poor. If the officers can send food to their homes, we are willing to supply the meals, ” she said.

Penang Buddhist Tzu Chi Merit Society Malaysia commissioner Khoo Boo Leong said its volunteers were told to stand down.

“They are not health workers so we cannot risk their lives. But we are ready to help the needy should the state call on us, ” he said.

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