Presentation on theme: "“KENAPA KAMI DITANGKAP?” A History of Government, Law, & Homelessness in Malaysia: 1870s to Present."— Presentation transcript:
“KENAPA KAMI DITANGKAP?” A History of Government, Law, & Homelessness in Malaysia: 1870s to Present
The Destitute Persons Act 1977: Why is it an issue? Today, government strategies for dealing with homelessness depend on application of the Destitute Persons Act (DPA). The DPA is a modern law based on vagrancy ordinances first brought to Malaya by the British in 1872.
The Destitute Persons Act 1977: Why is it an issue? The intent of the law is written as: “to provide for the care and rehabilitation of destitute persons and for the control of vagrancy”. In reality, this law is the basis for systems of arrest that target homeless persons, such as Operasi Gelandangan. These are founded on colonial era practices of mass round-ups, lengthy remands, and forcible confinement.
The Destitute Persons Act 1977: Why is it an issue? Implementation of the DPA involves processes that violate the constitutional and human rights of persons on the streets, such as their right to personal liberty, freedom of movement, equal protection, and property. These violations complicate homeless persons’ ability to establish personal security and well- being. In other words, it makes life harder for people already enduring hardship.
Since the 1870s, “vagrants” were commonly arrested by police throughout the Straits Settlements, based on British anti- vagrancy ordinances.
British anti-vagrancy ordinances were continually introduced and amended in Straits Settlements and FMS territories, usually in accordance with changes to policies and laws in England.
Here are some of the laws and ordinances providing for the round up, arrest, and detainment of homeless persons, 1872 to present.
Anti-vagrancy ordinances are designed to remove poor persons from public view, they are not designed to solve poverty. This article shows that, in 1906, White elites used the law to hide the “disgrace” of poor White people.
The roots of today’s Destitute Persons Act are easily seen in colonial-era ordinances. For example, wording used to describe “vagrants” is nearly identical to today’s legal definition of “destitute persons”.
The system of sending persons to “houses of detention” (today called “welfare homes”) also remains fundamentally the same.
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The Destitute Persons Act 1977: Why is it an issue? Operasi Gelandangan and other DPA programs cost taxpayers millions of Ringgit each year, yet they provide no practical solution to problems of poverty and homelessness faced by persons on the streets.
The Destitute Persons Act 1977: Why is it an issue? Government programs should be designed in accordance with the equal rights, freedoms, dignity, and needs of all citizens. We cannot fight homelessness by stepping on the rights of homeless persons.