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KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government is to establish a temporary protection centre for street kids with a pilot project to take off at the end of the year, said the Sabah Legislative Assembly was told today.

Datuk Abidin Madingkir, the assistant minister to the Chief Minister, said the pilot project will be implemented in Kota Kinabalu. An unused government building will be renovated at a cost of RM250,000 to fit the concept of a temporary shelter.

“This temporary shelter will come under the supervision of the state government through the State Home Affairs and Research Office, as well as the Welfare Services Department and is assisted by local authorities (PBT).

“These street kids will be sent to the temporary shelter for rehabilitation for a maximum of three months,“ he said in response to a question from Datuk Ewon Benedick (UPKO-Kadamaian) during the state assembly meeting here today.

He said the centre will provide among others basic living skills training and informal religious teaching.

Abidin said after three months, these children will be returned to their respective parents or guardians, who would then be issued a warning to make sure their children would get involved in similar situations again.

He said the presence of children wandering around and begging on the roads and at traffic lights junctions, especially in Kota Kinabalu as well as major cities such as Tawau, Sandakan and Lahad Datu, had created public annoyance.

He said this also created a negative image for the state, especially giving a wrong perception of the state’s development efforts.

According to him, most of the beggars are from the Palauh tribe, which is an undocumented community that traditionally lives in coastal areas and islands on Sabah’s east coast.

In answer to a supplementary question from Phoong Jin Zhe (DAP-Luyang), Abidin said the shelter would only target street kids as there is no department or agency that has the authority to solve the problem of children roaming the streets, including arresting and imprisoning them.

“For example, the Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) can only round up beggars, including street kids, but they (beggars/street kids) will only run away again. But the government hopes for the cooperation of all parties, including the community, in combating these activities,“ he added.-Bernama

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