Thursday, December 22, 2011

Refugees clean up neighbourhood

MYANMAR refugees have cleaned up playgrounds and back alleys of shop lots in Jalan Khoo Teik Ee as a part of a competition under the Jom Gotong-Royong programme.

Myanmar Refugees
The event, organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is also an effort by the foreigners to give back to the local community.

        The clean-up was carried out by members of the Chin Disciplinarian Action Committee (CDAC), which was formed  to discipline the tribal group and maintain  peaceful relations with the local community.

      About 25 people were involved in the clean-up, which included sweeping the roadside and drains, as well as collecting garbage from 8am to 10am.

       UNHCR external relations officer Yante Ismail said the competition began last month and will end in January.

      She said UNHCR will evaluate conditions at the site of the clean-up before and after  to determine the winner.

      "The prize money will be channelled to the refugees' committee," she said.

      The grand prize is RM3,000 while second and third place winners will receive RM2,000 and RM1,000, respectively.

     CDAC chairman Lalsiammawi, 35,  said  although there are some bad apples, who had fought when drunk and caused trouble, not all the members were the same.

     "We've been cleaning up this area even before the competition. A lot of us wish to live peacefully during our stay here," he said, adding that they are grateful for UNHCR's support.

      He said previously, City Hall helped them during the clean-up.

    "Some local residents gave a thumbs up when we were cleaning," said Lalsiammawi.

      Chin Refugee Committee medical coordinator Patrick Sang Bawi Hnin, 26, said the refugees' effort is a show of thanks  for the shelter that the country has provided during their troubled times.

     "This is our way of showing our appreciation," said Sang.

     Restoran Soo Kee worker, Kok Ming, 54, said apart from the clean-up, the foreigners should also stop the habit of spitting all over the place after chewing  betel leaf.

    "It is a horrendous habit that makes customers feel uncomfortable," said Kok Ming

Jalan Imbi 7-Eleven store manager Noorazilah Zakaria, 26, said CDAC has been a great help.

     "They have stopped fights among their people," she said on the effectiveness of the committee members.

       Yante  said it is hoped that clean-up efforts by the CDAC will help iron out misconceptions about refugees and  reduce negative sentiments towards the foreigners.

    "Unlike migrants, refugees are here because they could not go back to their countries for economic opportunities,"  she said.

             Yante said  some were allowed to perform  menial jobs  by the Home Ministry as a humanitarian gesture by the Malaysian government.

      "However, there are no distinctive laws to properly govern them yet."

There are about 95,000 refugees in Malaysia, with about 86,000 coming from Myanmar