Getting kids off Sabah streets

KOTA KINABALU: A temporary protection centre for street children will be set up here by the year end.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said the pilot project could solve the issue of street children or child beggars in the city and other districts such as Tawau, Sandakan and Lahad Datu.

He said the proactive move was in line with 1989 Geneva Conventions that protect children from exploitation and The Children Act where they are prohibited from begging or negative activities that are detrimental to their welfare.

He was responding to a question by Kadamaian assemblyman Datuk Ewon Benedick on efforts taken by the government to solve the street children problem at the state legislative assembly meeting here yesterday.

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, locally referred to as “sea gypsies”, and they did not possess any identification documents.

He said the Palau usually lived at sea or on coastal areas and islands.

“In this project, the first step is to take in children seen loitering and begging in the city, bringing them to the centre for health screening and keeping them there for up to three months. We will provide basic living skills training, religious teachings and other needed knowledge to them before they are released back to their parents or guardians,” Hajiji said.

He added that the parents or guardians would then be warned to make sure their children do not go back to the streets again.

For the project, Hajiji said the state had allocated RM250,000 for the repair and renovation of a centre.

“The state government will work together with the Public Welfare Department, Immigration Department, police and other local authorities,” he added.

There are over a thousand Palau recorded in the city, mainly around Gaya Island.

Hajiji urged people not to support businesses or services provided by these children in order to solve the matter at its core.

“When there is no demand, then the children will eventually stop doing what they are doing now,” he added.

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