Segambut member of Parliament (MP) Hannah Yeoh has urged Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who was sworn in as the 9th Prime Minister (PM) of Malaysia on 21 August, to prioritise the well-being of children
The former deputy minister of women, family, and community development in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration highlighted how children make up a sizeable population group in the country.
Citing statistics from the Department of Statistics Malaysia 2020, Yeoh said that the population of children is about 30% in most states, with the Federal Territories coming top at 38.5%.
"This is a sizable group and they are indeed our future and our greatest asset," the Segambut MP said today, 22 August, ahead of a possible announcement of the new Cabinet.
She also highlighted how the pandemic has exposed and amplified the weaknesses of our country's system to adequately protect children, adding, "Food baskets provided by the government did not include milk for infants and toddlers. After more than a year of battling COVID-19, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government woke up to the need of identifying children who were made orphans by COVID-19."
As such, Yeoh wants Ismail to establish the Ministry of Children
While Malaysia has the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development (KPWKM), an umbrella ministry that is responsible for over half a dozen different groups of people including children, there is no dedicated ministry of children that can focus on the issues concerning the 28.3% of Malaysia's population.
As of November 2020, there are 4.77 million boys and 4.47 million girls in the country.
Children in Malaysia were already facing many challenges and violations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and several Movement Control Orders (MCOs), both of which have only amplified the existing challenges.
"Child abuse, sexual acts against children, and neglect are common forms of violation to children in Malaysia," Yeoh said, adding that during her time, KPWKM focused heavily on issues relating to children because of their vulnerability — the inability to protect themselves leading to harm being caused.
"We appointed the first Children's Commissioner, launched the first child sex offenders registry, provided millions in grants to establish childcare in the workplace for our civil service, launched infographics for childcare providers and parents, partnered with Google to bring awareness videos on bad touch vs good touch for young children, provided WhatsApp services for Talian Kasih to make it more accessible and so many other ways to improve children safety."
In her statement, the former deputy minister stressed that all these measures and steps will require dedicated resources and manpower in protecting the 9.24 million children.
"As such, we had then launched a study on creating an Agency for Children and we were also working on increasing multiple folds the 208 child protectors we have. Currently, a child protector takes up 80 children's cases leaving them insufficient time for follow-ups. The actual ratio of protector and children is 1:45,142 and this is simply impossible for the protection of children to be effective," she said.
"There were also preliminary meetings being held to restructure early childhood education and care (ECCE), recommendations for the Ministry of Home Affairs to simplify citizenship procedures for children involving Malaysian mothers, adoption process, foster care, and data sharing with the police."
Noting how the well-being of the children is under severe threat during the prolonged lockdown, Yeoh implored Ismail to pay attention to them
"If so many meetings can be called to jostle for positions amongst the prospective ministers, surely our children deserve their attention. If the PN government then could pacify 32 ministers and 38 deputy ministers with a portfolio each, it would not be impossible for Ismail Sabri to fulfil the immediate need for the formation of a Ministry of Children," Yeoh said.
"It is time the new Prime Minister of Malaysia prioritises our children above special envoy and advisor positions with Minister status," she added, noting that if former PM Muhyiddin Yassin could appoint Abdul Hadi Awang as Special Envoy and Faizal Azumu as Special Advisor, both of whom were given a Ministerial status, the same "can and must be done now for our children".
Our children are far more worthy of taxpayers' money!
Meanwhile, Zuraida Kamaruddin, former PN minister of housing and local government, is willing to visit Afghanistan in order to guide the Taliban on how to optimise the role of women in various fields: