"They Spit On Us" – Woman Sheds Light On The Dark Reality Of Child Beggars In Sabah
Recently, many videos of children begging on the streets of Sabah started to resurface online, drawing mixed responses
A TikTok user who goes by the handle @evoncutie6446 stitched a video showing a passenger seat filled with RM50 notes and a child looking in at the money. She said that there were many non-locals who expressed pity for the child.
Evon then explained in the video why these children should not be pitied. She made the video to raise awareness, especially among those living in West Malaysia, as there were people who had expressed pity towards these children without knowing "the reality of it".
She informed viewers that most of these children are pendatang asing tanpa izin (PATI), or illegal immigrants.
Evon told SAYS that some people call them stateless because they do not belong to any particular country, while others consider them locals who live by the sea. Sabahans believe they come from either Indonesia or the Philippines.
"Most of them [have been] abandoned by their parents or forced to beg for money by their parents as an easy (way) to get cash," she said.
The children would allegedly act violently towards them by hitting their vehicles, breaking their car mirrors, spitting on them, and so on
In the video, she explains that they (Sabahans) do not want to condemn or criticise them. However, the beggars' mean attitudes have prompted the locals to act cold towards them.
"Why we, as locals, don't like them is because they always ask for donations from other people. When we don't give them donations or money, they would hit our cars, spit on us, all of that," she said.
Evon also mentioned, "The streets of Sabah are dirty because of them, not the locals. Other than that, they also act like gangsters in Sabah."
"They are not nice at all," she added.
Evon told SAYS that this has been an ongoing issue since she was a young child
The problem happens in most cities in Sabah, mainly Semporna, Lahad Datu, Tawau, and Kota Kinabalu.
Evon mentioned that teenagers are worse than children. She shared a personal story where she was molested at a mall in Kota Kinabalu by a teenager, which traumatised her for a while.
"I think it's (videos of the children) surfacing on the Internet now because they've been more aggressive than ever," she said. The children would usually just ask for money, but now they seem to be manipulating the locals into giving them money.
Even after giving RM1 or RM5, she said they would continue asking for more and would sometimes bring their 'gang' to get more money
Evon told SAYS, "Some people would offer them food, but they would throw it in your face and say they only want money."
"These kids are drug addicts from a young age. They usually use the money given to them to buy glue to sniff," she said.
The authorities do conduct operations on illegal immigrants and deport them, however, Evon said that they would just keep coming back. The authorities are also aware of these children.
She added, "No government party has ever thought of educating these kids and no one really does anything about it. We just kinda live with it."
Sabahans applauded Evon for explaining why non-locals should not simply pity the kids and even shared their own traumatising experiences
One TikTok user commented, "OMG right!!! (I) have experienced it before, they stopped my car from moving. (I) was surrounded. At that time, I was so scared. First time experiencing it."
"That's right sis, I have also experienced it. When I gave [some money to] one, a whole bunch of them came. Then once when I didn't give [any], they didn't allow me to go. (I) was traumatised," another shared.
A TikTok user said that a tour guide had also warned them about the kids when they were visiting Sabah.
There have been numerous calls for authorities to solve the worsening child beggar issue in Sabah
Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee had urged the Sabah government to resolve the issue and suggested seeking advice from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) back in March, as reported by Free Malaysia Today.
In response to Yong, Assistant Minister of Community Development and People’s Wellbeing Flovia Ng said that parents or guardians of these children would be tracked down and warnings would be issued before returning their children to them.
“However, if the parents or guardians cannot be reached, these children will be placed in welfare homes,” she added.
It was also reported by The Star in June that Sabah was set to issue a special foreigner card for migrants, which includes refugees and stateless people. The proposed foreigner identity card would enable children of inland foreigners to get an education, seek health care and pay for services set for foreigners, open bank accounts, and ensure that they would not be exploited by employers.
The announcement was seen as a good move to address the issue of undocumented migrants living in Sabah by non-governmental organisations.
Days later, however, a New Straits Times report said that the initiative was still being reviewed. Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan reportedly stated that no entity had been tasked to carry out the datafication process.
He added that the special committee for undocumented foreign workers and nationals has yet to even present its full report to the Sabah cabinet.
In a discourse in 2014, the issue of stateless children in Sabah was debated by prominent Sabahan politicians: