Move to curb beggars and their syndicates

Rohani (right) talking to a street beggar and her children during an operation in Jalan Bukit Bintang.

KUALA LUMPUR - The law must be amended to make begging an offence and to clamp down on syndicates using individuals to fleece the public.

The Women, Family and Commu­nity Development Ministry is pushing for the amendment to include enforcement in the Destitute Persons Act 1977.

Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said the current Act only allowed for rehabilitation and not enforcement.

"There is no element of punishment (with the current Act)," she said after leading an operation codenamed Ops Bersepadu involving beggars.

Several beggars were picked up around Jalan Imbi and Bukit Bintang in the operation.

Rohani said the current standard operating procedure involved the ministry and its agencies to save the destitute, screen them and keep them for rehabilitation for 30 days.

"The current Act only allows us to give protection and rehabilitation, making it difficult to carry out enforcement against syndicates that exploit individuals, or those who make begging a career," she said.

Rohani added that the ministry was in the midst of studying the Act and would be submitting a paper to the Attorney-General's Chambers once it had been completed.

Among the proposed punishments are compounds, community service and jail time for those found guilty of exploitation and begging.

"It (the punishment) has to be severe, otherwise it wouldn't be a deterrent," she said.