SEREMBAN, April 23 — A Special Cabinet Committee for Protecting Vulnerable Groups has been set up to safeguard the welfare of these people, especially children, persons with disabilities (PwD), women and senior citizens, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.
The prime minister said the committee is chaired by him and has representatives from the ministries of Women, Family and Community Development; Home; Education, Housing and Local Government; and Health; and the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs).
He said the committee would ensure that all care centres are operated according to procedure in line with the Care Centres Act 1993.
“At the same time, this committee will also look into the operations of religious educational institutions like tahfiz centres which are not registered and not managed properly,” he told reporters here today.
Ismail Sabri said this after visiting Down syndrome girl Bella at a Welfare Home under the supervision of the Social Welfare Department (JKM) here.
Also present were Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rina Mohd Harun and Malaysian National News Agency (Bernama) chairman Senator Datuk Ras Adiba Radzi.
Ismail Sabri said he found Bella to be in good condition, having a high level of self-confidence and could manage herself.
“Today I had an opportunity to meet with Bella in a safe place under the supervision of JKM. Bella has been placed here since July 5 last year.
“From my observation just now, Bella’s emotion was normal, no more emotional disturbance like when she was first brought here. In fact, her injuries, wounds and the like have healed,” he said.
Ismail Sabri said Bella also brought him to visit dorm rooms at the care centre and introduced her friends to him.
He said the government took a serious view of the incident which befell Bella, who is alleged to have been tortured and neglected since 2020.
“The case of this special child is being heard in court and all parties should respect the ongoing legal process.
“The incident that befell Bella was one of several cases which happened but were not reported to the authorities,” he said.
Ismail Sabri advised those following the developments concerning Bella to place their full trust in the court to make a ruling on the teenager’s case.
“Bella’s case has been brought to court, so it is sub judice to discuss it openly. We leave it to the court to make a decision.
“If we comment too much, we may be viewed as interfering with the conduct of the court hearing and cited for sub judice,” he added.
Ismail Sabri said there are 1,898 care centres registered with JKM, with 1,255 being Child Care Centres, 202 PwD Care Centres, 383 Senior Citizens Care Centres, 10 Women’s Care Centres and 48 of other types.
He said the government had detected 1,025 care centres operating without the approval of JKM.
Apart from this, there are 4,384 religious educational institutions which are registered throughout the country, including 1,208 private tahfiz centres and 272 pondok schools and madrasah.
“However, it was reported that there are more than 1,000 religious educational institutions including tahfiz centres which are not registered with the federal or state government religious authorities,” he said.
Ismail Sabri said the government did not want a recurrence of the fire which claimed the lives of 21 students and two teachers at Pusat Tahfiz Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah in Jalan Datuk Keramat, Kuala Lumpur on Sept 14, 2017 and the blaze at Sekolah Agama Rakyat Taufiqiah Al-Khairiah Al- Halimiah in Kampung Padang Lumut, Yan, Kedah which killed 27 female students in 1989.
“To check cases of torture and neglect involving these vulnerable groups, the government urges the whole Keluarga Malaysia (The Malaysian Family) to be more caring and take the initiative to report to the authorities,” he said.
Ismail Sabri said JKM would also be restructured to make it more efficient.