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).
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.