Blow to the city’s image
Published on: Sunday, February 09, 2020
By: Sherell Jeffrey, Jimmy Goh
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Kota Kinabalu: With many parts almost deserted due to lack of Chinese tourists following the State Government’s flight restrictions in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak, some Palauh (sea gypsy) kids decided to treat the city’s central business district as their new playground. 

One caller to the Daily Express office asked if we have decided to turn the State Capital over to these kids who harass the public for money now that the Chinese tourists with money to spend are virtually gone.

Photographs and video clippings showed two boys prancing on the street naked while another group were seen splashing away at the ornamental fountain in Gaya Street. Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman, when contacted, said City Hall detected some 53 such kids. It was not known how such a big number of such kids who are a common sight in the east coast towns ended up in the State Capital.

However, he said, the incident at the fountain happened for a few minutes. “Our CCTV footage showed the children aged below 12 playing at the ornamental fountain from 6.16pm to 6.19pm on Friday.” 

He said enforcement teams have been deployed to monitor the situation on a daily basis. 

“Our monitor identified some 53 children, believed to be palauh (sea gypsies). What we can do is round them up and provide advice and counselling,” he said. 

He said their antics not only posed a danger to themselves but also to motorists, adding that City Hall constantly worked with the Welfare Department and the National Security Council, etc, in addressing such matters. 

He urged those with information on such incidents to immediately alert City Hall instead of turning to Facebook and social media to vent their frustrations. 

“We would like the people to assist us by alerting us of such incidents so that we can carry out immediate action,” he said.

Api Api Assemblywoman Datuk Christina Liew also urged the public to report immediately to City Hall (DBKK) if they encounter similar incidents of children cleaning themselves in the fountain pool.

“We believe they are migrant kids. We cannot tolerate such gross indecency on our streets in the heart of the city. It is going to tarnish our image as a tourist destination, especially when 2020 is Visit Malaysia Year,” she said in a statement.

Liew, who is also Deputy Chief Minister, hoped the local authorities will ensure that such unpleasant incident will not happen again in any part of KK City.

Warisan Sec-Gen Loretto Padua reminded the authorities such as the police, Immigration Department and City Hall to use all available legal provisions to prevent such things happening.

“It is our responsibility to safeguard not only our community but also the safety of tourists. Let us not further undermine the State’s tourism sector which has been affected by the novel coronavirus,” he said. 

Incidents of migrant kids enjoying the cool water inside the fountain was also reported in previous years.  In 2017, pictures of some shirtless migrants inside the fountain on a rainy day went viral in social media, drawing many reactions from netizens with some criticising the absence of local authority personnel to warn them.

Pertubuhan Paradigma Wanita Sabah (Awas) President Winnie Juani hoped the government can do something to address the matter. 

She said that there have been instances of children knocking on the side windows of motorists begging for money, while some are seen going around sniffing glue. 

“Their behaviour puts them in danger, not only for themselves, but for motorists as well,” she said.

In Tawau recently a Palauh woman was knocked down by a motorist when she simply dashed across the road.

Meanwhile, several business operators lamented that they may have to close shop if the near total absence of Chinese tourists continues over the next two to three months.

“There are no more tourists from China. We relied on them to earn money. How are we going to survive, to pay rental and workers?” said a fruit vendor in Segama.

A coffeeshop operator said although there are tourists from Taiwan, Korea and western countries they were not in the kind of numbers as the Chinese.


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