34 sea gypsies held for begging in Lahad Datu

LAHAD DATU: Thirty-four members of the Pelahu community, who were begging at two traffic light intersections at Jalan Bunga Raya and Bandar Sri Perdana here, have been detained.

Lahad Datu police chief Asst Comm Rohan Shah Ahmad said the nine women and 25 children, aged between two and 41, were detained in a one-hour operation dubbed Ops Covid-19 on Saturday.

“These people are not bothered about the spread of the Covid-19 virus. They are also taking advantage of their stateless status to break the rules, ” he said yesterday.

He said those detained would be investigated under Regulation 17 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (measures within the infected local areas) for not wearing a face mask and not maintaining physical distance.

ACP Rohan urged local residents to stop giving money to beggars, especially at traffic lights as this could disrupt traffic.

“Legal action can be taken under Road Traffic Rules: Rule 41 LN 166/59 which provides that pedestrians must not stop or linger at road crossings, ” he said.

Early this month, authorities also rounded up a group of Pelahu or sea gypsies in Kota Kinabalu.

Pelahu are a nomadic seafaring community who move between the eastern Sabah sea border with the Philippines and Indonesia.

They are allowed by authorities to roam within those waters but not permitted to travel beyond such areas, including into mainland Sabah. In such a situation, they are considered as illegal immigrants or stateless people.

Over the years, some of the community members have settled down along coastal areas or on islands off Semporna and Lahad Datu while others remain nomadic. — Bernama

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