Tuesday, July 08, 2014

City vagrants and image problem

The warning by the Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor to penalise soup kitchens and round-up the homeless in KL city only goes to show that the minister is totally out of touch with the plight of the poor, especially the urban poor, who are finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet with the high cost of living in the City.

 Most of poor and homeless in the city are old, sickly, ex-drug addicts or are abandoned by their families for their unacceptable behaviour earlier in life. Most of them have changed and want to lead normal lives but are not able to do so as they are penniless and jobless for various reasons. There may be some foreigners among them but most are our own locals who seem to have been marginalised from the mainstream of development.

 The warning by Tengku Adnan that soup kitchens in Kuala Lumpur have to move out of the city centre or face getting punished is very shocking. What crime have these kind-hearted Samaritans committed? What type of punishment is he referring to and under what laws will they be charged? It is ironical that those who are willing to go out of the way to help the poor are being warned not to do so.It is extremely ridiculous that those who want to do good are punished but real criminals go scot-free. What type of culture are our leaders promoting? What message are they sending to the young?

Distributing food to the urban poor is not the real problem but not doing anything to address the increasing urban poverty is. Homelessness is not the real problem but ignoring the need for basic housing for the poor is. Vagrants living on the streets of the city is not the real image problem but having citizens, in particular leaders, living is great luxury but with no heart for the pain and suffering of the poor is the real image problem.

 It is shocking that many of the poor have been homeless for years, living on the pavements and fed by concerned fellow Malaysians of all ethnicity. It is encouraging to know that just as the vagrants come from all races so are those who are managing the soup kitchens that feed them. The love of ordinary citizens to help their fellow men in need transcends race and creed unlike those in power, who are more concerned with who they help

Ku Nan seems to be worried about the image problem created by poor vagrants roaming the streets of the city. But in actual fact that is not the real image problem but having citizens, in particular leaders living in luxury, but with no heart for the suffering of the poor is the real image problem. Apathy to the pain of others is the biggest image problem we face today in our country.

We were once proud of the image we had in the world, united and harmonious despite our diversity, peaceful, courteous and extremely helpful even to strangers. But today can we claim to have that same image that we can all be proud of as Malaysians?


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