Wednesday, November 29

Coping with social problems


NEWS from Sibu about alleged child prostitution last week must have upset many people. One hopes that this is a rare and isolated case in this fair land of Sarawak. In other parts of the world, especially in the poverty stricken parts of cities, child prostitution has been part of the oldest profession. In a metropolis, the circumstances are such that group ostracism can hardly be exerted and social control is practically nonexistent amidst great temptations.

We must find out, however, the reasons why such a thing has happened in our society amidst the apparent affluence. While the police investigation is being wrapped up, the Welfare Department has taken the girl under its wings.

Normally, police investigations are focused on any violation of the relevant law. In the process, however, they would like to know about the circumstances in which the mother and the child found themselves.

It is assumed that the Welfare Department officials have by now collected information from the girl as well, and used it for their report to the relevant authorities, for urther action. The minister n charge would then take ction quickly. More importantly, any information from the girl or her mother regarding those men should provide leads for further investigations.

The men also to blame

In our society, the usual blame is on the women for a sexual offence. But what about the men who take advantage of them, especially the underaged girls; the male culprits should be punished too. How? Investigate further, catch one blighter, and expose the Casanova publicly.

Basically human behaviour has not changed an iota since Adam’s time.

In respect of women, for instance, there are many men in this century who still regard women as chattels. Unlike the climate, they don’t change; like the climate change, they do a lot of harm to innocent women.

Community ostracism

Apart from the force of law, community disapproval is necessary to put the fear of God in the violators of customs and mores of a particular group of people.

Unfortunately, in a populace of various cultural backgrounds, disapprobation is often confined only to those people who recognise it.

The rest of the general public would rather mind their own business.

Government’s responsibility

The ultimate responsibility is that of the government of the day. Already in place are the authorities, even a ministry, to monitor and employ measures to reduce social ills in the country.

You can’t eliminate all social problems.

No longer is the job left entirely to the social workers from the religious and charitable organisations.

Armed with all the power and the authority and the resources, we should be able to cope with the social malaise better than many other countries.

Socioeconomic studies

The police have their hands full 24 hours a day handling all sorts of problems, social and criminal. The other agencies should give a helping hand in combating these sicknesses, by finding out the root causes, to begin with.

As far as social ills are concerned, for what it is worth, I suggest that socioeconomic surveys should be conducted amongst the various ethnic groups in places like Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu and Miri, to name a few.

Depending on the format of the questionnaire, the root causes of social ills may be discovered during the exercises. The database is vital for use by the relevant authorities to formulate policy and measures with which to handle these enemies of the people.

It is my guess that the social ills among the Ibans in towns have not been comprehensively studied. If there have been such exercises in the past or are ongoing, members of the community at large should be enlightened accordingly.

There is nothing to be ashamed of in identifying problems affecting members of the group who reside in towns and cities, if appropriate remedial measures would follow immediately.

The published report on frequent divorces among the Ibans in Miri is relevant to the current discussion. Reasons for frequency of such divorces are many and varied, but knowledge of the causes at work is confined to the judges. Is it accessible to the priests or religious people or even to the ketua kaum as well?

We are not saying everybody is divorcing everybody else every day in Miri. Divorces are a matter of the heart and of the circumstances surrounding a particular marriage. It’s not for the public at large to know as of right, but the frequency of incidences occurring amongst a group of people of a similar culture causes some concern to the other members of that group. This calls for some search of the conscience of the community as a whole.

Rope in everybody

For such studies, enlist the services of all the religious bodies and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) as well as the relevant government agencies, mainly the police, the city or municipal councils, the anti-drugs agency, health authorities, and the Welfare Department.

Social problems exist in any ethnic community

One fine afternoon last year, as I was strolling on the much-vaunted Kuching Waterfront, taking pictures, I saw behind the Chinese Museum, a group of men. Obviously, they were having a good time as they were unusually boisterous. They were friendly to me and wanted me to join in the fun. I was in a dilemma, should I mind my own business or do something useful for king and country?

After thanking them for the kind invitation, I couldn’t help but give them some advice on the terrible effects of the stuff they were drinking. That was politely acknowledged with, “Betul, betul, tapi …”

There was good news the other day: Pantai Damai assemblyman Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi had initiated the formation of what are called the social action units for the purpose of finding solutions to the social ills in his area. He must have correctly diagnosed the causes of these problems for which he prescribes the cure or relief.

A commendable move indeed!

Please let the media know if and when the units are proven effective.

It’s been six months now and I doubt if any of my Waterfront friends have by now given up the langkau habit. Perhaps, the Pantai Damai social action units (PADAMU — my idea) or similar action oriented groups should help them out of this quagmire before they ruin their livers.

Brighter note

While the sombre thoughts on the effects of social ills at home and of global warming worldwide on the biosphere cannot be brushed aside, at the same time, we must be positive: the happy Spirit of the Yuletide will mollify the foreboding.

To those who celebrate it, I wish them Merry Christmas.