Last updated Friday, October 31, 2014 02:00pm

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — Criminalising the homeless violates their right to life and liberty, a civil rights group said today, criticising a government ban on soup kitchens in the capital city.

Lawyers for Liberty also said soup kitchens are providing a service to the destitute and homeless, making up for the lack of social support from the state.

“We wish to remind Tengku Adnan that being destitute and homeless is not a crime and such persons are human beings with human rights and dignity, and it would be a serious violation of their right to life and liberty if the authorities were to go ahead and criminalise their existence and way of life,” campaign coordinator for the group Michelle Yesudas said in a statement today.

Earlier today, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said soup kitchens in Kuala Lumpur will be fined if they do not move out of the city by Monday as the government is seeking to remove the homeless from the streets in a campaign by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry called “Ops Qaseh”.

He added that  non-governmental organisations  are prohibited from feeding the homeless within a 2km-radius around the Lot 10 shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle business hub.

Tengku Adnan, who is also Umno secretary-general, added that those who donated to beggars in the city would be fined.

“In order to pave the way to a more inclusive society, the state must pursue a more viable and long term solution including resolving their personal issues and providing affordable basic needs like food, healthcare, housing, employment, skills and training,” Yesudas from Lawyers for Liberty said.

People lining up for food at a soup kitchen in Kuala Lumpur, June 23, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy MayPeople lining up for food at a soup kitchen in Kuala Lumpur, June 23, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

The group said the planned crackdown on the destitute and homeless failed to address the complex root causes of the problem.

“We therefore call on the authorities to take a more holistic, long term and compassionate approach when dealing with destitute and homeless persons rather than merely perceiving them as social ills that can only be resolved by criminal sanctions. There are no short cuts in resolving these issues,” said Yesudas.