KUALA LUMPUR: A recent report has found that nearly one in three Malaysians aged 60 and above have been abandoned by their children, prompting some to call for a law similar to Singapore’s Maintenance of Parents Act, TodayOnline reported.
The 2010 census conducted by Malaysia’s Department of Statistics last year showed that there are 1.1 million male and 1.2 million female senior citizens aged 60 and above in the country, the New Straits Times reported yesterday.
Of those, about 675,000 – or nearly 30 per cent – have been abandoned and receive no financial support from their children, according to the recently released Fourth Malaysian Population and Family Survey conducted by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN).
The figure includes those staying in welfare homes and those abandoned in hospitals.
Malaysia’s Welfare Department operates nine homes across the country, which cares for nearly 2,000 senior citizens as of June this year. The ministry also runs 22 day care centres for senior citizens.
Last year, the Welfare Department registered 16 private welfare non-governmental organisations which care for nearly 900 senior citizens in welfare homes.
Karpal Singh, the national chairman of opposition party DAP, yesterday called for the government to make it a crime for children to abandon their elderly parents, reported online portal Free Malaysia Today.
“It is imperative, having regard to the survey, for the government to forthwith enact a Maintenance of Parents Act to arrest the problem,” said Karpal, who first called for such a bill in June.
Singapore’s Maintenance of Parents Act gives senior citizens older than 60 the right to sue their children for maintenance, with unfilial children facing fines of up to S$5,000 or up to six months in prison.
Last month, Taiwanese Member of Parliament Lai Shyh Bao introduced a similar bill to compel children to support their parents or face a maximum fine of NT$200,000 or up to a year in jail.
Apart from Karpal, Malaysians the New Straits Times spoke to preferred a different approach.
Malaysia’s Women, Family and Community Development Minister, Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, said filial piety is “inherent in our culture” and only needs to be encouraged by means other than fines.
“Rather than a law to punish children who abandon their parents, my ministry believes in engagement via advocacy – by promoting close family relationships and care for the elderly,” she said.
Legal, advocacy and public education manager for women’s rights group Sisters in Islam, Suri Kempe, said a punitive parents maintenance act will not deter the unfilial from dumping their aged parents in welfare homes or hospitals.
“What should be done is a proper study to identify the root causes of why children are abandoning their parents,” she said. “Positive measures should be identified to enable a healthy relationship between parents and their children.”
Associate Professor Jesjeet Singh Gill, a consultant psychiatrist at the University of Malaya Medical Centre, said an unhealthy relationship could be the reason behind some children choosing to abandon their parents. “Having experienced trauma during childhood from alcoholic or drug-dependent parents are some of the reasons,” he said.
“Resentment from a parent’s divorce or remarrying process could also cause abandonment of elderly parents.” – Agencies