KOTA KINABALU: It is hoped that teaching basic living skills and moral values will help change how the Palau community lives among other communities in Sabah, says Datuk James Ratib (pic).
The Sabah Community Development and People's Well-being Minister said this was planned for the first batch of rescued street people who were taken in during an integrated operation here on Wednesday (Feb 8).
He said the first round of the rescue missions started with some 31 Palau individuals, comprising 10 women, three adult men and 18 children who were now housed in temporary shelters in the city.
“For the time being, the 31 rescued people would be taught basic living skills and other moral values,” he said during the operation.
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Authorities would later decide where to place these people, or which agency should take over after they have been taught these basic skills, James said.
He said this initiative aims to address the increasing number of street beggars mainly from the Palau community.
He said it is also to tackle rising public concerns regarding these sbeggars that have been photographed asking for money at traffic light intersections and other high-risk places, regardless of the safety.
“We will continue this operation everyday until there are no more child beggars around,” James said.
He said this initiative will be extended to other parts of Sabah namely Lahad Datu, Tawau and Sandakan where these activities have also been reported as rampant by the local communities.
He said the shelter that was being used now is able to cater to the group of people rescued and more rooms would be added if there was a need.
James said the issue of Palau and street children has been a thorn in the side of the state government for decades, with no solutions or concrete action taken to address it.
“Hopefully, there would be no more finger-pointing and accusations that no action was being taken because we are working as best we can to deal with this matter seriously,” he said.
Also present to assist in the operation were officials from the National Security Council (MKN), police force, City Hall and the Welfare Department.
During the state assembly sitting on Nov 28 last year, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor had announced that a temporary shelter would be ready by the year end to house these street people, mainly child beggars, to address the issue.
He had said that with this pilot project, the first step was 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 basic living skills training, informal religious teachings and other needed basic knowledge would be provided to these children before they are released back to their parents or guardians.
Hajiji had said that the parents or guardians will then be given a warning so that they make sure their children do not get involved in similar situations again.
He had explained that the move was in line with the 1989 Geneva conventions that protects children from exploitation and other matters and the Child Act where children are prohibited from begging and other negative activities that are detrimental to their welfare.