KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will set up a temporary protection centre for child beggars seen and caught around the city by year-end.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor (pic) said this was the first proactive step and a pilot project to solve and address the issue of children begging in the city, and in other districts including Tawau, Sandakan and Lahad Datu.
He said this was also in line with the 1989 Geneva convention that protects children from exploitation and other matters and The Children Act where children were prohibited from begging and other negative activities that were detrimental to their welfare.
Hajiji said the problem was having a negative impact on the state's development, especially in the eyes of visitors and tourists.
He was responding to a question by Kadamaian assemblyman Datuk Ewon Benedick’s question on efforts taken by the government to solve this matter at the state Legislative Assembly meeting here, Monday (Nov 28).
Hajiji, who was not present, was represented by his assistant minister Datuk Abidin Madingkir while Benedick, who was also absent due to his parliamentary duties, was represented by Luyang assemblyman Phoong Jin Zhe.
Earlier in his response, Hajiji said these children were from the Palau community and they did not hold any identification documents.
He said the group usually lived at sea, on coastal areas and on islands in Sabah.
"With this pilot project planned, the first step is to take in children seen loitering and begging in the city, bring them to the centre and keep them there for up to three months," he said.
"We will provide basic living skill training, religious teaching and other needed basic knowledge to these children before they are released back to their parents or guardians," Hajiji said.
He said the parents or guardians would then be given a warning so that they made sure their children did not get involved in similar situations again.
He said the state had allocated a total of RM250,000 for the repair and renovation works of a house identified as suitable for this project.
Hajiji said the state government together with authorities from the Public Welfare Department, Immigration, police and other local authorities such as city hall officials would work together from the rescue operations to the placement of these children.
He said though there were over a thousand recorded Palau people in the city - mainly in the Gaya Island area, only children found roaming, begging or selling in the city would be rescued and placed in the protection centre.
Health screenings would be conducted by Health officials before the rescued children were taken to the protection centre.
Hajiji said to solve this matter it was vital that everyone in the community played their part by choosing to not support their businesses or the services provided.
He said if there were no demand, then these children would eventually stop doing what they are doing.