Lawyers for Liberty
Press Statement
3 July 2014

Do Not Criminalize the Existence of the Destitute and Homeless

Lawyers for Liberty is appalled with Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor’s ill-conceived and heavy-handed plan to crackdown and clear Kuala Lumpur of the destitute and homeless by criminalising begging and even those who sought to help them.

The sudden desire to rid the destitute and homeless and even soup kitchens from Kuala Lumpur is outrageous and superficial to say the least as it fails to take into account the real human lives that will be affected and the root causes of homelessness and begging which are various and complex.

Soup kitchens and those providing aid to the destitute and homeless exist to compensate the lack of social support that should be the responsibility of the state. Penalising, arresting and hiding destitute and homeless persons from public view will not resolve anything but instead will have the opposite effect and worsen their very real day to day life struggles.

In order to pave the way to a more inclusive society, the state must pursue a more viable and long term solution including resolving their personal issues (lack of identity documents, addiction, family problems, etc.) and providing affordable basic needs like food, healthcare, housing, employment, skills and training.

We wish to remind Tengku Adnan that being destitute and homeless is not a crime and such persons are human beings with human rights and dignity, and it would be a serious violation of their right to life and liberty if the authorities were to go ahead and criminalize their existence and way of life.

We therefore call on the authorities to take a more holistic, long term and compassionate approach when dealing with destitute and homeless persons rather than merely perceiving them as social ills that can only be resolved by criminal sanctions. There are no short cuts in resolving these issues.

Released by:
Michelle Yesudas

Legal/Campaign Coordinator
Lawyers for Liberty
3 July 2014

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