Set up special committee to tackle street children issue, Sabah govt urged

Risky behaviour: Street children running across a road in the Kota Kinabalu city centre.

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government has been urged to form a special committee to fully address the issue of stateless street children in the state.

Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) president Tan Sri TC Goh also called on the state to seek the Federal Government’s help and use a multi-pronged approach to thoroughly resolve the conundrum.

Goh said the problem has become worse of late, as reported by the media, adding he agreed with the recent proposed move for the state government to build a temporary shelter for the street kids who were the “stateless children” produced by the undocumented migrants in the state.

He said the state government and the local authorities should establish a special committee to thoroughly study the issue and to come out with both short and long-term measures to fully resolve the perennial issue effectively.

He acknowledged that poverty was the key factor contributing to the increasingly desperate and bold behaviour of the street kids who were found begging on the busy streets in the Kota Kinabalu city centre.

The children have been seen and even been caught on video knocking on car windows and frightening road users without any regard for their own personal safety, he said, adding that it has become a public nuisance.

“While children are the nation’s future generation, nonetheless, if these street kids or stateless children are not properly taken care of, they may inevitably become a heavy burden to the nation,” Goh said in a statement here on Wednesday (Feb 8).

He hoped that the Federal Government could fully support and assist the state government to address the issue.

On Tuesday (Feb 7), Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin said the special shelter for street children in the city should be opened immediately as the problem of their begging antics continues to unnerve motorists.

Although the state government had announced the Kota Kinabalu Special Shelter for street children on Jan 31, he said these youngsters were still a danger not only to themselves, but also motorists.

He urged the state Community Development and People’s Well-being Ministry to immediately make the Kota Kinabalu shelter operational, adding that the state government should not delay finding solutions for the “perennial problem”.

Chan, who is Deputy Agriculture and Food Security Minister, said he had spoken to the relevant parties, including the newly-appointed Community Development and People’s Well-being Minister Datuk James Ratib, to speed up the opening of the shelter.

Ratib had informed him that they were in the final stages of opening the facility.

Goh, who is also a member of the Sabah Economic Advisory Council (SEAC), recalled that during the Barisan Nasional government era back in 2016, the then Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim, while speaking in the Dewan Negara, had said that her ministry was seriously looking into addressing the street kids issue.

In 1989, he said, the Federal Government also set up a special task force under the National Security Council (NSC) which comprised various government agencies, with the chief aim of addressing the street kids issue.

“Unfortunately, it seems that the said special task force was just for window dressing.

“When the Pakatan Harapan government came into power, it too announced the setting up of such a special task force, but it failed to produce any tangible results, and it has even gotten worse now,” he said.

Goh also proposed that when carrying out major operations against the street kids, the relevant authorities should be more thorough in tackling the issue, including identifying the parents of the street kids, in order to have a better picture of the issue.

“As for those street kids who are without parents, they should be taken to the temporary shelter, and be provided with basic education and skills training,” he said.

While acknowledging that the measure of providing temporary shelters for the street kids was urgently needed, he nonetheless opined that it should only be a temporary measure, adding that the issue needed to be effectively addressed at its root.

He noted that a majority of the street kids spotted in Kota Kinabalu were the stateless children of Filipino descendants or the Palau.

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