When politicians and the press chase the homeless…


It is totally weird, bewildering and disturbing that certain politicians and members of the press see it as their patriotic duty to chase homeless people on the streets of George Town…

Is it any wonder why these street people fear these rough “rescue operations” so much? Do those who are “rounding up” these people know where these street people are being sent to and what conditions are like there? The Social Welfare Department should ask itself why these people are so afraid of being “rescued”. Has anyone stopped and thought about the root causes of such homelessness and what kind of social safety nets we have?

The press were there to cover the operations but that did not stop one press member from going on his motorbike in hot pursuit of a homeless person, already being pursued by the political secretary to the CM no less.  Reminds me of journalists “embedded” with US troops in Iraq and how they like to don army flak jackets and pretend they are part of the war too, while reporting from the US military’s perspective.

Oh, what gallant “heroes” we have in our midst! Someone should award them medals for bravery, courage and patriotism beyond the call of duty…

Perhaps these political and press “heroes” should visit the Lighthouse centre along Penang Road and speak to the volunteers there to find out how to approach street people without violating their dignity as human beings. And then actually talk to the street people. Then our “heroes” might begin to see a different picture and realise that these street people could very well have been their fathers, mothers, sisters or brothers. The Star reporters for their part might want to actually talk to these street people and find out why they are on the streets in the first place.

Check out this excerpt from a report in The Star:

THE frantic appeal of a vagrant rang in the air as he was approached by Social Welfare Department officers in George Town.

Sabarlah…sabarlah, jangan tangkap aku, aku nak berniagalah!” (be patient…be patient, don’t catch me, I want to trade).

The vagrant known only as Hamzah was picked up during one of the biggest raids against vagrants and beggars on Penang island this year on Sunday night.

When told by Komtar assemblyman Ng Wei Aik that he would be sent home, he replied: “Rumah? Saya tak ada rumah, sudah lama aku tak balik rumah. (Home? I don’t have a home, it’s been a while since I last returned home).

A vagrant being rounded up by the authorities at the Esplanade.

He then recited a pantun (Malay poem) after being spurred by the crowd and asked press photographers to stop taking pictures of him as he was not “handsome.”

He put up a struggle before being coaxed to get into the truck.

Hamzah was among 62 vagrants and beggars who were rounded up during a five-hour joint raid involving 89 workers from eight departments beginning midnight.

A Social Welfare Department officer said Hamzah was suffering from mental illness and had been previously treated at Hospital Bahagia in Tanjung Rambutan.

At one point, Ng gave chase to a homeless man who tried to run away. The man was cornered by a press member who chased him on a motorcycle.

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Anna brella, you have posed a difficult question: how to define sensibly and prove categorically “mental illness”. The clinician’s defination is that it is a diagnosible illness that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive,emotional or social diabilities. There are different types of mental illness with different degrees of severity. This defination adopts a diagnostic approach which involves systematic description and classification of symptom patterns. It is evidence-based. DSM-IV, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, is rather commonly used besides the ICD-10 (International standards).(Google DSM, you can find useful info.) This approach has the potential downside of labelling people when a person… Read more »


Dear Anil, Congratulations for doing justice to highlight the plight of these so called vagrants, neglected individuals, etc. Malaysia badly needs NEW “Role Model” established Leaders & Politicians of HONOUR with Calibre, Maturity & Tolerance without Fear or Favour – not “Recycled Politicians”. Further, this nation Desperately needs Intelligent, Time Proven Pragmatic Successful modelled, Financial & Politiical “SOLUTIONS” NOW, to mitigate the IMPENDING Political & Financial fallout. Malaysia must “NOW RECOVER” from its “TATTERED ECONOMY & FINANCIAL MELTDOWN” resulting from the “Herd Mentality” to FOLLOW albeit at the “TAIL END.” This great nation & its rayaat NOW have “God Almighty’s… Read more »


Dear Anil, You are doing justice to highlight the plight of these so called vagrants, neglected individuals, etc. I have been involved with many Charitable Organisations, Cheshire Homes, Lions International Clubs, Rotary International Clubs, PEMADAM, Residents’ Association, etc to see, learn & CONTRIBUTE my services, time & funds for many years…. To be the SILENT one to LEAD….so others may FOLLOW & EMULATE…VOLUNTARILY! We have very qualified “Community Mental Health Therapist, Therapist, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Treatment Programs etc” to assist the Government…. But the Federal & Local Government Social Welfare Divisions are filled with people of the “Wrong Agendas, Intelligence, Calibre,… Read more »


To Antares and Casper,

There are a few drop-in centre here in the city of Penang where the homeless can go there and have a good hot meal, take a bath, relax and read or watch TV for a few hours. Counseling and help are also provided when needed.

And like Antares said, freedom is all they have left. And that’s all they can look forward to in life and not to be locked in what looks like a mental institution.

anna brella

I think Antares has said it very succinctly. And can someone please define sensibly what is really meant by “mental illness” and categorically prove to all that that term is not being used quite erroneously by stupid medical people to stereotype and lump together all those human beings who may choose to think, behave and live their lives differently from the more usual and much larger group of status-conscious, run of the mill general conformists in a society. And if you were out there as a socail outcast, day in and day out, homeless and down and out on those… Read more »

Eyes Wide Open

Long ago, i took some time to befriend a “street person”. He was a well-known beggar sitting outside Super Kinta shopping centre in Ipoh. He told me that when the authorities rounded up these vagrants (he wasn’t exactly one as he had a rented room somewhere), they had nowhere to put them. Can’t jail them because they’re not criminals. Can’t hold them in lockups indefinitely. Not enough welfare homes to take them in. If they were accepted, many of them escaped because they didn’t like the boredom and confinement. So where? Tanjung Rambutan mental hospital!! He had been sent there… Read more »


The media tends to perpetuate stereotypic images of the mentally ill. Besides the ‘funny’ story Star wants to tell or entertain the readers, do we get more insight into issues of the homeless, esp those with mental illness? Politicians and government officials can ‘rescue’ or clean up the streets in one night. That is not difficult to round them up. But what next? Do they really think that to institutionalise them is workable? Why the homeless fear to be ‘rescued’ by the welfare officials? That is a big question mark. It is also a big question mark of how much… Read more »


Anil, I can agree with you on the fact that political secretary of CM is a bit of overzealous. Perhaps, he might be scoring brownie points However, it reminds me of the blogs in Singapore criticising the government, when Yio Chu Kang MP kenna whacked by a taxi fella who is a bit “kuku”. Cut the whole story short. Where do we draw the line? Having vagrants wondering around the streets, creating possibilities of hurting people. Don’t get me wrong. I am emphatised them too. Anil, Where do we do the line? People, I am absolutely sure that there are… Read more »


quote casper: “Perhaps the good people of Penang might want to pitch in to provide food on a regular schedule and make available a daytime shelter of sort(place for time out or a quick bath).” attn casper and antares it IS already happening. long ago. as i had mentioned earlier in anil’s post where he show the video on the homeless, in our catholic church, there is this lighthouse drop in centre, which had been established since 5 years back (please click on the link to read!), where meals are provided daily during weekdays at a set time. not only… Read more »


casper – If you don’t mind me butting in to Anil’s blog, there are well wishers, religious bodies and other kind souls who provide meals on a regular basis. They know where to go for their meals etc. At the Lighthouse, they also provide a place to bath and also used clothings for them to wear. That’s why I was being idealistic and hoping that these religious bodies/well-wishers/charitable organisatons and the state government can come together to help them. Normally people help because they want to and the state government can help financially and in co-ordinating the activities. Unfortunately, the… Read more »


Billions disappear due to corruption. With such billions, you can build a few hundred orphanages, old folks home, shelter home etc.

Deal with corruption first. Solve problems at the root.

Malaysia is an abundant country with so much of wealth and prosperity. If properly managed, no one will be below the poverty line.


Briefly, agree fully with antares.

Perhaps the good people of Penang might want to pitch in to provide food on a regular schedule and make available a daytime shelter of sort(place for time out or a quick bath).

Believe me, studies have shown this would be a crucial first step that goes a long way to help support meaningful interaction between the bigger community and those who choose to live on the fringe of society.


While the Crooked Politicians in Malaysia steal & rape the nations wealth building multi million Ringgit Grand Homes ,the poor & homeless are left to walk the streets hungry & cold.
Where is the Caring Malaysian Spirit?
The Authorities must provide these homeless people shelter in keeping with a developing & humane Society.


Yeah…pathetic politicians and heroes. They should start a proper welfare home and gently persuade them to leave the street. Very stupid politicians. If they are still ignorant…I know of one BN friend philanthropist who will be building a RM80million home to shelter the poor and the elderly. When that happens, don’t go crying ‘dirty’ politics. Sigh. Very pathetic fools.


This sort of thing only happens in Australia when the cowboys round up their cattle. In Malaysia the ‘cowboys’ are in their bikes chasing stray ones…what a wonderful sight!
In this respect, Communist system like in China, they do it in a more humane manner. The homeless placed with govt agencies and made to be useful, to regain their self respect. Even the very old are given a chance to live among the communities.
Sad, Malaysians hardly have the civic consciousness to understand the plight of these homeless. Education play a big part…no comments in this area.

johanssm / khun Pana

Vagrants is not much of a problem if properly coax to enroll themselves into shelters. Most vagrants have “jobs”.Recycling tin cans , papers and are willing to do odd jobs. The problematic types are the drug addicts , jaga keretas , lunatics and organised beggars. These are the types to get rid of. But, we are not hunting down criminals. They are just unsightly and unwelcome. How many of us here visited a welfare home and know about its condition? Are we helping them or are we just doing a spring cleaning. I really appreciate that Penang is doing something.… Read more »


Thanks anil for a good report! SOS have been arguing that homelessness is the end game for a competitive system which disregard housing rights. Before one become homeless the person was probably chased away from a rental home, due to inablity to pay rental. Conversely to provide some `half way home’ where the homeless can have a rest, a wash and even free food(as suggested by Antares) is a 1st step -and better than the regimented homes, where `inmates’ are allowed a few hours of freedom to move only in weekend. Then some social housing with controlled rental could ease… Read more »


I once lived in a Penang neighbourhood which had its fair share of ‘street people’. When I went to work in the morning, it was not uncommon to have someone sleeping on the walkway outside. A neighbour once had someone who died there during the night…. right outside their door. There’s no one single category for the street people. There are quite a number mentally ill people who simply wander around, probably having some sort of family somewhere, but they are unable to keep control of where they go. There are those who do make a rough living with odd-jobs,… Read more »


Hi, Not that I want to tell the world about this. I started this program called “Urban Street Outreach (USO) about 7 years ago. Our objective is to go to the streets in Georgetown in the middle of the night and distribute hot meals, biscuits, drink and clothing for the homeless and destitute. We don’t just give them food but we spend time listening to their stories. From here, we encourage them to go to a home. If they are willing we will find a home for them. But sad to say, not many would want to go to a… Read more »


I’d rather see the robber barons and brigand chiefs rounded up. All these homeless folk have left is their freedom. The state can help ease their lives by funding social NGOs who can set up free facilities where they can get a hot meal and a sheltered place to sleep, as well as the opportunity to speak with people about their personal problems and, if possible, receive some concrete help and encouragement to redesign their own lives. Hunting them down in the dead of night like stray cats is demeaning and disrespectful of the humanity to which even the down… Read more »


If there is equal distribution of wealth and no corruption, there won’t be people on the streets.

One should chase the corrupted segment who are stealing billions and building mansions costing tens of millions of ringgit.


the govt. is more concerned about cleaning the streets from these people than the welfare of these people. they want that image that penang is free from street people or got very few people. well, that’s what happened whey they do things with their own interest and not the public interest.

tan, tanjong bungah

Hi everyone,

We need to clear our streets of vagrants, but as your posting suggests, there is a need to check and ensure that the homes that these vagrants are sent to serve as ‘real homes’ to these people, homes that they do not fear to go or return to!

The authorities in such homes should ensure that their paid or voluntary staff show compassion for the inmates. After all, they are fellow human beings!


The vagrant and hopeless Begging alms on the streets The lowly lost souls Will there be compassion at all? What make them roam? No relatives, no friends, no homes Maybe they were born to test our compassion Share with them what they don’t get? Maybe they made bad decisions Lost everything no wills to go on Chased out from loan sharks and banks They become the lost souls Reporters and politicians Police and welfare officers Rounding them up Get rid of them off the streets The vagrants and beggars will return The root problem Find out why they become Find… Read more »


If we look closely, the whole article is about one crazy man (in the eyes of the reporter) and his antics which the reporter probably find amusing and wish to share the ‘humour’ with the rest of the people. But the reality is these are hurting people who need our understanding, sincerity and genuine help.