Friday, 20 August 2010

Heavy on my mind - Part 2.

.......... It must be about 9-9.30 pm on Saturday 24 July when, after some time playing with the cat, the little boy wandered off along this row of restaurants.

As if of one mind, we looked at each other and the message was - we must find out what this child was doing here at this time of night. We got him to our table, saw his book of donation tickets for a school-orphanage and noticed that he had sold only 3 tickets. So these five Singaporeans, an Australian, a Brit and two Malaysians bought up the remaining tickets. He wanted to give us a CD - that was what the $10 ringgit was for. We asked him to keep it instead.

Just before he left, Oi Bek (a Singaporean) said to him in her best Malay, "Jaga duit ini baik-baik, jangan nanti hilang." as she pressed into his hand a couple of red notes saying, "Ini untuk makan awak, ya?" Translation: Look after this money carefully, do not lose it. This is for you, to get some food.

After that, you could say we should be looking for a halo around each other's heads; but we were feeling lumps in our throats and trying to hold back a tear or two because this loving child should be under a safe roof somewhere, doing his studies or playing with his pet cat. Why is he here?

After the girls left on Sunday I took out one of the tickets.
Out of curiosity I decided to google this Pusat Tahfiz Amal(PTA). As I clicked from one item to another my heart sank deeper and deeper. I got into several blogs describing encounters with students from PTA selling posters, calendars and CDs all over the Peninsula especially in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam - and even as far as Sabah! Most of the bloggers were concerned about firstly, the safety of these children who ranged from 9-15 years old; secondly, was the PTA a front for some other nefarious activities? I also came across newspaper reports but let me itemise the nitty gritty.

1. On 29 December 2006, five children were killed and three were injured in an accident which involved the children's PTA van and a stationary vehicle along the North-South Highway near Sungkai, Perak. They were on their way 'home' to Kedah after a 'Donation Drive'.

2. Shahriza Abdullah of Utusan Malaysia reported on 31 December the Chief Minister of Kedah Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid as saying that the relevant authorities like Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) and the police should carry out a thorough investigation and to issue directives for immediate action.

3. Malaysia Today on 20 January 2008 recorded an official letter of complaint from Sameer Khan bin Shajehan Khan regarding the mismanagement of orphans in PTA to the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development.

4. Opat Rattanachot of Utusan Malaysia , reporting from Sungai Petani on 7 January 2008 wrote about some students aged between 8-12 and in school in uniforms asking for donations from the public. He spoke to one of them who explained that they were doing this to help finance their PTA who had given them a home, food and education.

5. Blogger Shahrul Azmi (http://shahrulazmi.blogspot.com ) posted on 19 August 2009 another encounter with students from PTA. When he contacted by phone Majlis Agama Islam Kedah (MAIK) he was told PTA had closed. When he asked for official documentation he was told to leave his number for someone to speak to him.

He then made another call to Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (JAIS). He managed to locate the bureaucrat who told him amongst other things, that JAIS "don't give any permission to Pusat Tahfiz Amal on collecting donation." and "JAIS cannot do anything coz there is no enactment allowing them to take action." He then advised the blogger to report the matter to the police. The blogger felt that that was his (the bureaucrat's ) job. And rightly so!

6. AND just a few weeks ago on 24 July 2010 we met this child 'working' on behalf of PTA up to 10 at night.

IT HAS BEEN ALMOST FOUR YEARS SINCE THE TRAGIC ACCIDENT THAT KILLED FIVE INNOCENT YOUNG CHILDREN FROM PTA. NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

This Ramadan, the well-heeled and well-off will once again look forward to breaking their fast at Ramadan Buffets at the many Restaurants and Hotels in all the main cities and towns where they're quite happy to stump out from $28 - $75 per head for the privilege of Iftar away from home. As they glide from table to table stacking up their plateful of grub, they can rest assured that the comestibles are absolutely halal.. I have seen on TV the religious bureaucrats checking the hotels' kitchens, refrigerators and store rooms to ensure the halal-ness of the food and they have also issued a list for the punters to scrutinise!

Aaahh - if only the same dedication and exertions can be exercised on behalf of those children at PTA so that this childand others like him shall never ever have to walk the streets, night or day, touting for donation-sales for their school-orphanage.

These dismal shadows, if left unchecked will evolve into a cancer, not only for PTA. These children and all other oppressed, abused, and poverty-stricken children need a safety net. Malaysia is not a poor country and Malaysians are generous people.

But the men in suits, the men in their baju Melayu and songkoks, the men in their turbans and jubahs, the men in uniform and the mass media are too busy fondling their mobile phones, their tasbirs (prayer beads), their credit cards and their own self-esteem.

(The words 'fondling their own self-esteem" are borrowed from John Pilger.)

19 comments:

sunnysideup said...

Thank for the insight !
What about the business man who runs some reflexology and some traditional herbs stalls at malls like Carrefour some years back ?

I believe he was based in Melaka. Some people see him as a kind person always helping out an orphanage in the historical state.

However, apparently, he was amking used of the orphans to market his product. I was approached by one of the boys in front of Giant Setiawangsa, ttok his phamplets, and saw that businessman's face promoting his product .

Later somebody highlighted it and he disappeared ..... unless he's running another business and 'supporting' another orphanage.

Like you said , ONLY the relevant authorities can solve this. They must stop warming their imitation leather chair office !!!

sunnysideup said...

ooppss...the above comment was typed when I was still half-asleep...many unforgiveable errors....

ph said...

i will always remember the heartbreaking image of the little blind boy i had seen at the Pasartani in Setiawangsa. He was made to sit on the dirty floor with two well dressed adult who was standing in between him shamelessly whoring for donations.

May those heartless and greedy miserable bastards drown and rot in their own greed !

anak si-hamid said...

Not to worry about the errors sunnysideup. If I was posting when I'm half asleep I would do worse than this.

But your experience is another example of how wicked people are and how they are getting away with it because the people in charge are not doing what they are paid to do.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you ph,

I hate to say this because I sound like a typical old diddy.

When we were growing up, people around us were not as well-off or 'modern' as people are now. But there was no such display of wanton cruelty to children and the helpless. I guess people then were not as lazy or greedy or 'clever'.

Irene said...

What we saw that evening, and what you discovered after that, is a stark reminder of the ugly human race and their exploitative ways. It is sad that sometimes children have to be victims of adults' greed and laziness.

Though our actions may be well meant, I hope we are not encouraging greed or giving the adults an easy out out by helping a sweet child...

Raden Rohaya Lopez said...

Manusia miskin kaya, semua bergembira, Aku miskin hina berselumbung duka! I may be wrong but this is how that little blind child may feel when Raya comes along! Tetapi kamu tidak miskin hina my child, the heartless who used you for their own benefits are!
My heart goes to the five children who perished in Dec 09. May God Bless their souls!
MH, thank you for sharing this information with us, very heartwarming! And as PH said, may those bastards drown and rot in their own greed!

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Irene,
It is always a dilemma isn't it? Do we give at all? Do we harden ourselves to ignore such sights and then go home and feel like kicking ourselves because they may be genuine.

I have seen worse than this when we were in India and after a time we decided to stop giving. But each time we did that it left us with a tinge of guilt and shame.

Worse than this is the knowledge that even bona fide charitable bodies (even so-called religious ones) are exploiting people's generosity and suffering children to amass wealth for themselves.

We did what our heart wanted us to do that night even though we may be encouraging the profiteers.

But I hope that little boy gets a bit of help and joy from us and especially the cat that night.

As I've said the authorities, both government and religious are responsible. They are just as guilty for sweeping the problems under the carpet, no, the mat.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Roy,

It's still going on at the Pasar Tani.
We can never call ouselves civilized when we allow this to go on.
The authorities are always passing the buck from one authority to another - and so the hypocrisy and exploitation goes on.

Anonymous said...

Check out almansor, that was the name used before PTA, the kids have been brainwashed into believing that what they are doing is learning to berniaga (selling CDs, calenders, etc), macam nabi (putting a holy twist to the slavery).

jooli said...

It's a lucrative 'business', this begging. Only in yesterday's NST it was highlighted that beggars can get up to RM10,000 a day! Some are dressed like monks and driven to specific locations in vans & collected later to hand in their loot to a leader who can make up to RM 30,000 a month.
But getting children to beg is totally shameful even if it is really for their upkeep.

Anonymous said...

Where is the police? Where is that minister that is always talking about protecting the children? Walk the talk lah.

Mr Bojangles said...

Ain't it a shame. After a half century and then some of independence, decades of rule by people professing to look out for their own kind,religion, and nation, and all the wealth this country has been blessed with, we still have to send kids out to beg? And at ungodly hours at that?

Seems there is no shame left amongst those that gorge on their ill-gotten wealth while others suffer, and amongst those authorities supposed to keep a wary eye on such going ons.

Just last week some local rag had an ad by an organisation confering "Mother of Education" status on our ever-gracious first lady.

Now if only she could mother such street kids and leave education et al to the proper authorities, there might just be less of such wrenching sights to behold at every pasar malam or food court or restaurant.

Cheers, I think

anak si-hamid said...

Anonymous August 23,

Thank you for the pointer. I have come across references to that group But I must admit I dread reading about another case of how Islam is being used by Muslims for profiteering.

anak si-hamid said...

Thank you Jooli,

You know I have met many people, some from the press, who are in the know about this 'lucrative' business of begging. YET NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE TO STOP IT.

The authorities seem to turn a blind eye to this disgusting exploitation of children, the disabled and the poor.

I think - from reading and watching the local news - they are too pre-occupied and obsessed (?) with catching khalwat-ters in Putrajaya and raiding the vice dens for foreign prostitutes. Do you get more kudos and 'pahala' for stopping 'immoral' acts instead of nabbing actual criminals?

anak si-hamid said...

Dear Mr Bojangles,

I've said it before and I'll say it again. You are a man after my own mind. You have voiced every thing I want to say about this country's 'merdeka' over 50 years on.

There's so much mealy-mouthed self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Basically the Malays have become smug and complacent in their material and spiritual comfort zone.

Naff's said and I salute you for your stand.

anak si-hamid said...

Anonymous August 24 thank you,

Very good question. Could someone out there (in uniform or not) explain?

Omecool20 said...

I do see these kids ( boys / girls ) where I live ( Bandar Baru Bangi ), toting calendars and cds, at petrol stations / supermarkets. And I have given repeatedly to them ( damned I dont, damned if I do ). As some has said here, it is scary on the situations that could face them, especially the girls. And as usual, all this stuff is always parked under " Di Bawah Perhatian " or OIC, with the relevant bodies. Typically, we have to wait until disaster strikes, then they will wake up ! *sigh*

anak si-hamid said...

Omecool20,

Thank you for your comment. There had been one tragedy in December 2006. Still, nothing's been done.

I suppose the authorities do not consider the safety of these children a priority. They must be waiting for little dead bodies in sports bags to turn up.