PN’s bloated cabinet must have plans to prevent future child abuse cases: MP Kasthuri Patto

Media statement by Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan and International Secretary for DAP Women Kasthuri Patto on Sunday 31 January 2021 in Penang:

RM40.5 million for J-KOM, previously known as JASA should have been used to blast Talian Kasih 15999 and other child protection agency and NGO numbers to prevent rising child abuse cases in the country, notably in this COVID-19 pandemic.

January 30th 2021 will forever be etched in the memories of Malaysians from all walks of lives as tears flowed for Zubaidi Amir Qusyairi Abdul Malek only 7 years old, suspected to be drowned in a blue drum not in the midst of strangers but of his own family after being allegedly abused by his biological mother and his stepfather in Malacca.

The neighbours who wished to remain anonymous said that they had heard crying from all 4 children and a solemn looking Amir but, in good faith, brushed off these tell-tale signs that children naturally cry.

Child abuse cases, be it physical, sexual and verbal, over the past year during the time of this COVID-19 pandemic has seen a disturbing and troubling increase in Malaysia and globally as well.

Dissemination of valuable information such as hotline numbers to call when caught in a violent spiral of domestic violence, violence against children, suicide, depression, fire, road accidents and also for COVID-19 should be blasted out on a daily basis and especially during peak hours so that it becomes almost like a reflex to call these numbers according to the emergency one was facing.

Every single Malaysian, today, like clockwork, on auto-pilot, faithfully tune in to listen daily to the announcement by our Director General for Health Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham on daily COVID-19 cases, number of deaths, in ICU and those who have recovered. This is normally followed by a breakdown according to state and even district.

This would be the best time for J-KOM, what was previously known as JASA, a political propagandist tool for Barisan Nasional – abolished by Pakatan Harapan and reinstated to its initial RM85.5 million glory slashed to a substantive RM40.5 million allocation, to act as its ‘job description’ as stated by the Minister for Communication and Multimedia Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah. J-KOM’s objective is “to create two-way communications between the government and the people, namely to convey accurate, authentic, and wise government information to the people, as well as to hear the voices and feedback from the people”. I would think that reminding everyone on these hotline numbers – again and again until it becomes as familiar as a pizza delivery jingle for those who remember should be within the parameters of what they are meant to do.

Is blasting, publicising and broadcasting the many hotline numbers for child abuse cases including Talian Kasih’s 15999, not qualify as ‘Government information to the people’? What then is the function of J-KOM or JAPEN or other equivalent acronyms from the alphabet soup if not to drum into the minds of Malaysians to immediately reach out to these numbers for help?

In a November 2020 online poll by UNICEF, nearly 50% of children want to live in a safer world which means they don’t feel safe in their current living environment. What has the Government done to address this?

In a time of a pandemic, the Government should use all their resources – online and offline to spread links and contact numbers of where one can go for specific types of help that they need. Publicise and invest in online and printed media on the list of contacts that one needs to reach out to. To do this the Government must adapt a ‘multi-sector’ approach to coordinate and share these information. Messages on positive parenting using non-violence discipline techniques, recommended also by UNICEF in their ‘Situation Analysis of Women and Children in Malaysia 2020’ must be extensively shared as well. Additionally, the Government must, in parallel also move in the direction to decriminalise suicide while developing and expanding help for mental health needs, especially for families that are truly feeling the burn and the brunt of this pandemic. And importantly to recognise and admit that there is a lacuna in the collection of data of abused children in the country and to work towards practical and proactive, solution finding and not just a show of cosmetic militancy against abusers. The Perikatan Nasional Government must also come clean on the status of the Plan of Action for the Protection of Children that was approved 2009 which was designed to ensure children’s rights for their protection, survival, development and participation.

Muhyiddin Yassin’s bloated cabinet must have a plan in a time of a pandemic to prevent future child abuse cases.

Run with the wind, little one, with the sun on your face. Free from pain and harm.

Rest now, Amir.

Kasthuri Patto
Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan
International Secretary for Wanita DAP

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