Soup kitchen ban after Hari Raya

PUTRAJAYA: The proposed ban on soup kitchens within a 2km radius of Lot 10 in Kuala Lumpur will be deferred till after Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

Federal Territories Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Adnan Md Ikhsan said the decision is not just merely about enforcement but the objective is to handle cleanliness issues besides ensuring that public places can be used by everyone.

Lot 10 was chosen as the focal point because it is the city centre and it is also one of KL's major tourist spots.

A centre will also be set up to plan short and long term solutions to the issue of homelessness.

"Our concern is the 'mobile' soup kitchens," Adnan said after holding a closed-door meeting with 12 soup kitchen operators today.

NGOs which have their own premises are not affected by the ruling because these premises are more organised in tackling the issue of cleanliness in their premises.

The concern is mainly the distribution of food to the homeless at night when they are asleep.

Pertiwi Soup Kitchen founder Munirah Abdul Hamid said soup kitchen operators should not distribute food to the homeless who are already asleep because there is a possibility that they will not pick up the food.

"Usually, soup kitchens distribute cooked food to the homeless but cooked food can turn bad. That is why we should not put the food beside the sleeping homeless," Munirah said.

And usually, upon waking up and finding that the food has turned bad, they will just leave it around, thus creating rubbish.

Kechara soup kitchen president Datuk Ruby Khong said the meeting has cleared all the questions of the past week about where they would be heading.

Khong added that the NGOs will have another meeting with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) and ministry officials tomorrow to discuss the mechanics of how soup kitchens can operate once the new ruling is introduced.

Meanwhile, a coalition of NGOs and groups urged the government to hear the voice of the homeless community first before taking any action against them,

The group said a comprehensive consultation between the government and homeless community is necessary to truly understand their needs.

In George Town, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng shot down a minister's claim that tourists come all the way to the country to have free meals at the soup kitchens.

He said that the claim was untrue as it was unlikely that tourists will come all the way here to taste the food for the homeless.