Welfare officers threaten elderly couple forced to spend Raya on KL streets


An elderly woman and her husband who spent Ramadan and Hari Raya on the streets of Kuala Lumpur have been threatened and verbally abused by two officers from the Social Welfare Department (JKM) who responded to a MalaysiaNow report on the misfortune that recently befell them.

Last week, MalaysiaNow reported that the woman, identified as Zainab, and her husband, had been forced into a life of homelessness after being kicked out by their own son from his house in Kulim, Kedah. 

The story of the woman, whose real name is Zaleha Haron, and her husband, who suffers from depression, went viral, with calls and emails from the public asking for more details in order to raise funds for the couple. 

The overwhelming public sympathy was in stark contrast with the attitude of the JKM officers, who came to Zaleha on the third day of Hari Raya after the authorities were alerted of her plight.

MalaysiaNow understands that the officers were instructed to follow up on Zaleha after the matter came to the attention of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Nancy Shukri.

But instead of helping the couple, the officers threatened them and told them to pack their belongings and leave Kuala Lumpur.

They were taken by car to the Integrated Transport Terminal (TBS) in Bandar Tasik Selatan and told to board a bus to Muar, Johor – a place where they had once lived but where they no longer have any family ties. 

Zaleha told the officers that they had no one in Muar, which they had left a long time ago. 

Neither are they open to returning to their son, who threw them out of his home in November last year. 

Zaleha also told the officers that she had a job as a dishwasher at a nearby restaurant in the capital city, but her explanation fell on deaf ears. 

“They came and asked, ‘What are these umbrellas here?'” Zaleha said, referring to the only shelter the couple had from the elements. 

“‘Your story has gone viral. Stop pretending to cry, you are only causing problems for others,'” she quoted the officers as saying. 

In Pictures: Nothing but umbrellas to shield against the world

She said the officers, whom she identified as Malay and Indian women, were angry that she had gone to the press with her story and asked why she had not enquired directly with JKM. 

Zaleha previously told MalaysiaNow that she had in fact applied for the department’s assistance in renting a room. However, she was told to submit water and electricity bills – documents which, living on the streets, she did not have.  

“They never bothered to listen to what I told them,” she said. 

She said the officers also threatened to send them back to Kulim. 

“I said we did not want that because our son would never accept us after we were kicked out.”

Despite Zaleha’s pleas, she and her husband were taken to TBS along with their meagre belongings. During the journey, her mobile phone was confiscated by the officers who monitored all incoming and outgoing calls. 

However, Zaleha had made contact with an acquaintance during the officers’ initial confrontation. Her friend, together with her husband, rushed to TBS where they were able to intercept the group. 

There, an argument ensued with the officers who refused to let Zaleha go. Eventually, she and her husband were taken to a beat base at the bus terminal where they were detained.  

Zaleha Haron gets a temporary place to stay until she can afford a room to rent.

It was not until her friend questioned the officers for confiscating Zaleha’s phone that it was returned. 

Zaleha said the officers warned her not to tell anyone about the incident, and threatened to revoke her husband’s permanent resident status. 

“They told me, ‘Don’t come up with anymore stories. If it goes viral again, I will take away his IC and cut it up’,” Zaleha said.

For now, Zaleha’s friend has arranged for her and her husband to stay at a flat. 

“I thought that would be the end of our grief,” she said.

“But as if being kicked out by our son was not bad enough, JKM is now doing something like this. I am very sad. God only knows how I feel.” 

When asked how the public could channel donations to them, Zaleha said she had an account with Bank Islam but could not recall the account number.

MalaysiaNow will inform readers as soon as the details are available.

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