Empathy a prerequisite for public office, Nurul Izzah reminds Ku Nan

Nurul-IzzahKUALA LUMPUR: The issue of social justice and welfare should be at the heart of policy making, said PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar.

She said this when commenting on Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s comment labelling the homeless community as “lazy”.

The Lembah Pantai MP said with the current economic conditions, more people would be left below the poverty level.

“I would like to ask Tengku Adnan to read the reports, especially those written by Prof Dr Fatimah Kari from the Institut Kajian Kemiskinan, Universiti Malaya.

“I’m not saying that we don’t need to help them in retraining and eventual immersion into society.

“But there has to be some degree of empathy, which is really a prerequisite when holding public office,” she told FMT.

Social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi questioned what Tengku Adnan was most worried about. Was it the food distribution, the cleanliness or where they sleep, he asked.

He said if it was about cleanliness, usually the NGOs that provide food for the homeless, clean up after themselves.

“Since when do we have to institutionalise giving food?

“However, to maintain some control, people may check this website to coordinate efforts to help the homeless,” Syed Azmi told FMT.

He agreed it would be nice to provide the homeless people a place to sleep but he said they preferred to stay close to their jobs.

“This safe transit places that the government has set up, even though not many questions are asked, sound great.

“But what about people who are OKU (handicapped)? What about people without documentation? What about people with infectious illnesses? HIV or TB?

“For these cases, of course, you don’t want to put them in the dormitory. Also don’t forget our transsexuals and transgenders.”

Lost Food Project (TLFP) founder Suzanne Mooney said a small number of homeless choose not to work and live on the streets.

But she said the vast majority have problems — including mental health issues — and are also the victims of unfortunate circumstances.

“Providing basic support like shelter, food and counselling for a temporary period can help rehabilitate and return these people to fulfil a more productive role in society.

“It is important to distribute in a structured way to minimise food waste and aid rehabilitation,” said Mooney.

She also agreed with Syed Azmi that food distribution needs to be orderly as so many groups of people are feeding the homeless. This may lead to wastage and the area becoming dirty.

According to a report in Malay Mail Online today, Tengku Adnan  advised NGOs and people living in the city  not to give too much assistance to the homeless people, especially cash, food and clothes.

He said this had led the group to become too comfortable and lazy.

He said this during a Volunteer for Kuala [email protected] ([email protected]) programme.

He said some NGOs organized distribution of food and this had resulted in some areas becoming dirty and uncontrollable, tarnishing the image of the federal capital.

“The government has set up transit centres for the homeless so that all activities or programmes pertaining to the group can be held under one roof. The NGOs are supposed to be aware of this.

“In addition, before they (NGOs) donate any kind of food items, the organisers need to refer to the management of the transit centres beforehand as there have been cases where the donated food could not be consumed by Muslims or vice-versa.”