On Thursday 3 July, ‘The Star’ published an article quoting Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor as saying that with immediate effect, ‘soup kitchens’ will no longer be allowed to operate within a 2km radius of Lot 10 (shopping mall), which covers a large area of Kuala Lumpur city centre.
“This activity (of giving food to the homeless) just encourages people to remain homeless and jobless. There have been many such people whom we have found jobs for, who returned to that life because they said it is easier,” said the minister at a press conference.
The minister was also reported as saying that not only would soup kitchens be barred from operating in central Kuala Lumpur, even alms-givers may be fined for distributing food. Predictably, the ministry’s abrupt decision caused an uproar among NGOs and the civic society.
Commenting on this issue yesterday, Nalanda Founder Bro. Tan said that such measures as banning soup kitchens and imposing fines on alms-givers will not resolve the homeless problem in Kuala Lumpur.
“Many soup kitchens were set up in response to increasing numbers of homeless people who need help; but soup kitchens are not the cause of people leaving homes! No rational people want to be homeless if they can avoid it,” said Bro Tan.
“The press report also said that many ‘beggars’ are members of ‘begging syndicates’. But such ‘syndicates’ do not want food, they want money. Thus it may not be true to say that soup kitchens support the existence of syndicated beggars,” he added.
Bro.Tan however agrees with the Honorable Minister’s intention to clean up Kuala Lumpur and to reduce the number of vagrants. He urged the ministry and relevant agencies to conduct dialogues with the affected NGOs and concerned civic society so that holistic longer-term solutions can be implemented to resolve the homeless problem.
“Let us go about finding solutions with wisdom and compassion. Hasty and abrupt decisions may not resolve anything, yet may only trouble those who are already distressed, and vex those who are trying to help,” said Bro Tan.