PETALING JAYA, July 11 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s visit to the homeless is a move in the right direction, say non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating soup kitchens in Kuala Lumpur.
Pertiwi Soup Kitchen founder Munirah Abdul Hamid said she was surprised with the visit by the prime minister.
“I only realised it was officials when I saw an unusually huge crowd of people breaking the usual silence of the area at 11.20pm. After speaking to a few of the homeless, the prime minister approached me to express his desire to find a solution to homelessness.
“However, I told him that he must consult with the homeless first as they are rather afraid and sceptical,” said Munirah.
She said his visit would have a positive outcome that would benefit the homeless community and the NGOs.
“Let’s hope they carry out what they have said and start addressing the needs of the less fortunate in the city,” she said.
Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor recently received flak for announcing a ban on soup kitchens within a 2km radius from Lot 10 in the city centre.
It has now been decided that soup kitchens with their own premises can continue operating while mobile ones can operate until the ban, which had been deferred, kicks in on August 16.
Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor programme officer Wong Kar Fai said although it was a step in the right direction, he was now hopeful the government would consult NGOs and consider the plight of the homeless seriously.
He said the visit was something good as it had repeatedly been said that consultation had to start from the homeless communities.
This was especially for those who applied for re-documentation of lost MyKads, he said.
“We are now looking at meaningful consultation rather than just visits like last night. But we will observe what the next step will be from the government,” he said.
Dapur Jalanan coordinator Mandeep Singh said it was great to see Najib finally coming down to the city streets to meet the homeless.
“It was heart-warming to see the prime minister meet with the affected people and to understand their real life issues. This is because only the affected community will be able to speak about their problems,” he said.
“We hope yesterday’s visit is not just merely a damage control visit after ‘heavy’ comments and frustrations of Malaysians but because of his sincerity.”
He also said he hoped the prime minister would look into the matter seriously and come out with a proper solution to the issue.
A spokesman from charitable organisation Food Not Bombs KL said he hoped Najib would turn his concern to action by ensuring the government would now actively investigate issues concerning the homeless.
“It relates to their scope of responsibility. Homelessness is not just a matter of welfare but also one of housing, labour, health and development,” he said.
“These things are within the rights of all Malaysians. We see this as a great opportunity for the federal government to initiate a more holistic approach to addressing, and ultimately preventing, homelessness.”