April 12, 2010

Street Urchins on the streets of Kota Kinabalu

The following is a letter written by a reader published in The Daily Express on 11 April 2010 (copied verbatim),
Examples abound in Sabah
I AM a British international musician, not resident in Sabah, but have worked throughout Borneo since 1980, and have helped a generation of teachers achieve their aims. I write to you from Hong Kong where I am about to commence work.
Having read your recent reports concerning the plight of homeless Sabahans both in Semenanjung and Sabah, may I respectfully suggest some focus by your paper on some individual cases within Sabah.
Take the case of Ardy, he is a cardboard box kid trying to scratch a living in KK. Ardy is one of the many casualties of life of parents who split and subsequently abandoned him. He doesn’t really who he is; only that he was “asli” from Kota Belud.
Is he one of those who “hisap gum” (sniff glue)? Almost certainly, since I vaguely remember him for some 10 years ago in Sinsuran with his Kumpulan (group) of little friends. Some days he is very sad, and rather dirty. Other days when people talk to him and show a little care and understanding, his eyes brighten.

He has a big smile and enjoys company and a laugh. He cleans himself up as if life then has some point. He’s always respectful. But then he slips back to his old ways and doesn’t bother to wash his clothes.
His only income is collecting and selling cardboard boxes and the few handouts he receives for a drink or a meal. He had I/C years ago but lost it or sold it. He cannot remember the name of either his mother or father… nor does he know from which kampung he originated. He is simply Ardy, the name he was given.
He’s very spontaneous and can hold a conversation, but his memories, undoubtedly painful ones, seem deeply buried.
He doesn’t need sympathy, doesn’t need handouts, but does need a replacement IC. He does need to work and for people to demonstrate they care. He does need social services to help him regain his identity.
Ardy is only one of many such casualties who need a little help and understanding to recover their lives. The 2020 vision of “developed nation status” should not be construed as being based on material things alone. It’s not just about the twin towers, turbo Perodua cars with exhaust pipes the size of their drivers’ egos. It is also about effectively targeting those alienated from society, helping them reconstruct their lives and to recover their self-esteem.
I applaud the former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi for demonstrating his awareness and sensitivity regarding the problems of broken families, and the single parent families struggling not only to survive, but to overcome the very serious problems of IC and the education of children.
Every year of education missed or young people remain unable to enter the job market for whatever reason, brings then ever closer to the inevitable – slipping into the shadows and being engulfed by drugs and crime.
At least some of these casualties are salvageable, and it is in the best interests of society that action be taken to help them.
Andrew Davies (Asmiruddin)
Phew! That was a long letter to the forum but I decided to invest my time to retype them here because I think it was a good piece, not perfect, but it does highlight the problem we face on the streets of Kota Kinabalu or KK as the city is fondly referred to. If I don’t record them here, that letter would just disappear to oblivion since Daily Express apparently do not keep soft copy of letters to the forum nor do they publish them online, as far as I know.

Mr Andrew, if per chance you come across my blog, most likely Ardy is the issue of an illegal immigrant. The name Ardy sounds like an Indonesian name. Not that my opinion on his origin is intended to make light of his sufferings.

I myself had a personal encounter with these kids about two years back. I parked my car at Segama one evening and this kid appeared out of no where. He had a can secured by a string hanging from his neck, I suspected the can contained glue because I could smell it from an arm’s length. He said, “Boss. you want me to look after your car? Pay me RM2.00”. I told him no because I have bouncers looking after my car. My car was parked near Strawberry KTV and there were bouncers standing outside, good excuse for me and he took the bluff.

I could have given him the RM2.00 but it would only encourage the activity and my RM2.00 would only fund his glue sniffing activity.

Few months back, I remembered listening to the news on the radio as I was driving along Sinsuran, an officer in the state government refuted that there were children roaming the streets of KK. I chuckled because just as the news reporter said that, I saw a kid peddling smuggled cigarettes right in front of me while I was waiting for the traffic light. He was very tanned and dirty. I said to myself, “Yah! Right! Either you never ‘turun padang’ or your a recalcitrant imbecile.”

The ever resilient Dr Chong Eng Leong, has been advocating about the issues of illegal immigrants in Sabah for many years now. Despite all his tireless efforts, the authority has not truly reciprocate his efforts in kind. He is right to remark that there is really no political will on the parts of the state and federal government to overcome this. Let me state that in plurals, state governments because since Berjaya government to present UMNO Sabah government, this problem still persists. Perhaps we have passed the point of no return. Perhaps it is too late to fix now.

You see, now not only we have to content with foreigners(illegal immigrants) in our midst, we have to deal with their offspring! Born and bred in Sabah but because their parents are illegal immigrants, these kids do not have any paper and they are stateless. They are stuck in a limbo. Al Jazeera did an expose of this sometimes in 2008 which I find to be embarrassing because it somewhat put us Sabahan in an inhumane light.
Some of these stateless children are left to fend for themselves when their parents are deported. I guess the authorities do not know what to do with them, they can’t deport them back together with their parents because they are stateless.

Honestly, as a parent, I pity these kids. They have no education, will never experience security and stability, never felt being loved by their parents, they are robed of their childhood and without guidance, they will certainly end up on the wrong path. Desperation will push them to being criminals and prostitutes. Thus, creating social problems. Are our leaders washing their hands off this problem and let the next generation of Sabahan to face it?

On the other hand, what can our government do?

1) Should we make arrangement to trace these stateless kids’ parents which almost certainly be a near impossible task because like Mr Andrew’s Ardy, most of these kids would not know who their parents were.

2) If somehow the state government could get the Philippines or Indonesian government to take these stateless kids in, wouldn’t that be rather inhumane? These kids are Sabahanized, they don’t speak a word of Tagalog or Bahasa Indonesia. All their young lives, they know only the environment of Sabah. Sabah to them, is home. Anyway, this idea would be a non-starter as I doubt the two governments would accept these stateless kids. How would they verify that these kids are the issues of their citizens.

3) Should the government of Sabah and Sabahans accept these kids, house them, school them, so that they could contribute to the state when they become adult? As it is, Sabah is amongst the poorest states in Malaysia. Do we have the resources to carry this extra burden when our own are also living in poverty in rural areas.

There is no easy answers but it is the state and federal governments’ responsibility to tackle these problems instead of staying mute about it.

There is no clear certain answers to resolve these problems but if the government continues to drag it’s feet on this issue, one thing is certain is, these stateless children will be a social problem in the future. 

1 comment:

Maxine said...

how do you tell the difference between an illegal child and a local abandoned one?? was curious...

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