Soup kitchen meeting with ministry frustratingly lopsided, says NGO
People lining up for food at a soup kitchen in Kuala Lumpur, June 23, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May
PETALING JAYA, July 8 — Putrajaya’s meeting with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating soup kitchens in the capital was a frustrating affair marked by a lack of empathy towards the poor, one NGO has claimed.
Debra Loh of KL Urban Fellowship, one of the groups that attended this morning’s meeting with Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor, said the narrow perspective adopted by government representatives, frustrated attempts at proper dialogue.
“There was no perspective of the poor carried in the meeting but only of businesses, not of the poor themselves... they don’t want to understand or hear from the ground,” Loh told a press conference.
KL Urban Fellowship is a group helping vagrants find jobs; it also feeds the poor.
Loh explained that most government representatives at the meeting could only think of the homeless in “stereotypes” and were unable to see them as vulnerable people who need help.
“One example is the KSU (chief secretary of the FT Ministry) who gave his own experience of going down to the ground.
“He said it gave him a feeling of fear because he was afraid they might hurt him. This is how they presented their perspective,” she said.
Another participant at the meeting, Wong Kar Fa of Empower, cited the lack of government understanding about urban poverty by pointing out how one high-ranking police officer had asked why they needed to feed the poor.
“He kept asking why we feed the poor. Until when are we going to give them free food,” Wong said.
Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor and Minister of Woman, Family and Community Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim have previously justified the government’s plan to crack down on soup kitchens by linking vagrancy to laziness.
They also said soup kitchens would only encourage vagrants to remain unemployed and to loiter the city.
But groups like KL Urban Fellowship and Empower, along with others who now form a coalition on homelessness, said the statement by the two ministers show a poor grasp of the issues.
“The resulting misunderstanding is reflected in the policies suggested by the two ministers, such as operations to arrest the homeless.
“These policies do not resolve the structural issues that are faced by the homeless community,” the coalition said in a statement.
After today’s meeting, the Federal Territories Ministry today postponed its ban on soup kitchens operating within central Kuala Lumpur until after Hari Raya.
Talks will resume tomorrow, Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK) president Datuk Ruby Khong said after this morning’s meeting.
Loh said they hope that tomorrow’s consultation would improve to include better understanding of the problems facing the homeless.
Federal Territories Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Adnan Md Ikshan also said that a laboratory involving relevant government agencies and NGOs will be set up to discuss short-term and long-term solutions to homelessness.
I TOO WOULD LIKE TO KNOW AS TO WHEN THE UMNO GOVERNMENT WILL STOP FEEDING THE CRONIES.