Less talk, more action, child rights NGOs tell government

John Bunyan
File picture shows Sharmila Sekaran speaking to journalists outside the Magistrates’ Court with Maya Ahmad Fuaad (left) and Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) acting executive director, Yu Ren Chung, at the Shah Alam court complex July 13, 2018. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

IPOH, July 22 — Several child rights groups said it is pointless for the government to say it will stop cases of infants dying under the care of babysitters if no immediate action is taken.

Voice of the Children chairman Sharmila Sekaran said promises are meaningless when there is no real action taken.

“We know there has been a change in the government and some things might be new, but these issues are very old and keep on happening,” she told Malay Mail.

“We don’t need research or studies to stop this. What we need is immediate action.

“The time for talking is over. The law is there and it has to be used fully and effectively before another innocent life is lost.”

Sharmila said all unregistered childcare centres must be immediately shut down and childcare operators and parents who are responsible for children’s deaths should be punished under the Child Care Centre Act 1984 and Child Act 2001.

Sharmila also said housewives who work as babysitters from their own home need to be registered.

“This comes under the home-based childcare centre category. They should go through training such as basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for babies, their home should be child friendly and must have basic equipment to protect the children,” she said.

Sharmila was commenting on two child abuse cases reported this month, with the latest being the death of 10-month-old infant Naufal Amsyar Nabil Fikri, who was believed to have fallen at a baby-sitter’s house in Tangkak, Johor, Friday.

Family Wellness Club president Mangaleswary Ponnampalam said the problem can be tackled by the social and welfare authorities who regulate the childcare industry.

“Only those who meet the standards set by these authorities with respect to safety, hygiene, proper environment, qualifications in childcare should be allowed to operate a childcare centre,” she said.

Mangaleswary also said the reason why most parents choose to send their children to unregistered childcare centres is due to tight finances.

“Most of the registered childcare centres are expensive and it deters the parents from sending their children there.

“The government should look into providing some sort of financial assistance for poor parents to help them send their children to recognised childcare centres,” she said.

Senior consultant paediatrician Dr Amar Singh said that having more legislation will not bring any changes to the issues.

“Laws are good, it protects the people. But, the laws are not to prevent, if somebody abuses a child, then the laws can be used to punish them, but it doesn’t prevent the abuse from happening in the first place.

Dr Amar said that weaknesses in Welfare Department are what should be given attention in solving this problem.

“Welfare Department is the crucial department. They are the ones who supervise and license these child care centres.

Dr Amar also pointed out that the department doesn’t have professional welfare services.

“Overseas, workers in welfare department are degree graduates while here most of them are SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education) leavers. We need to train them,” he said.