Penang plans to form special social welfare services centre

GEORGE TOWN: Penang plans to form a special social welfare services centre to help parents cope with raising their children amidst a challenging environment of influences from social media and economic hardships.

The move was also necessary to arrest juvenile delinquency which has now turned dangerous with the emergence of children performing cycling stunts (mat lajak).

The center which can become a pilot project in Malaysia, was to assist parents where both spouses are working and they do not have an extended network of relatives and friends to help them cope with raising children, said Penang Youth, Sports, Women, Family and Community Development committee chairperson Chong Eng.

Referring to menacing cases of mat lajak appearing on public roads, Chong Eng said it was a clear indication that the parents are busy trying to support the family until they could not provide timely parental supervision.

"We cannot just fine them for their misbehaving children. In the first place, most of the juvenile delinquents hailed from single parents or low-income families. They cannot afford to pay fines for their rebellious children."

Chong Eng said the center will be staffed with highly trained social workers - the model copied after the welfare services provided in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Malaysia's present system of social welfare was mostly geared towards overseeing the rights of the disabled, the elderly, the destitute and senior citizens.

But, there was now a need to also focus on blue-collar parents, who are struggling to raise a family amid the rising living costs and the advent of social media which can easily influence children to reenact scenes from movies and videos.

Hence, there are now children riding their racer bikes in a dangerous manner akin to the racing motorcyclists (mat rimpits), who terrorise road users of public roads.

Several videos have appeared on Facebook accounts depicting dangerous cycling stunts and racing.

Chong Eng said that society has yet to learn from the tragedy in Johor Bahru last year where eight students died and another eight were injured when they were out racing on bicycles in the pre-dawn hours.

Penang CPO Comm Datuk A. Thaiveegan was not bemused by the matter, ordering his officers to clamp down on this road menace before the mat lajak graduate into becoming mat rimpits; who have ignored road safety in the country for the last two decades.

"We want the parents to take responsibility for the well being of their children - period. Every family has issues but each one must cope with it," he said.

Last week, southwest district police head ACP A. Anbalagan drew attention to the issue when his officers detained four mat lajak, who was the only Year Three students, but yet were out racing past midnight along the hilly roads in the district.

Alor Star MP Gooi Hsiao Leung has urged society to come together to help the children, saying every generation has their own rebel trend.

But now, it is getting dangerous if young children are willing to risk their lives by cycling dangerously on public roads, Gooi noted.