Hannah Yeoh and Syed Saddiq’s crowded charity centers forced to close

Long queue outside a food bank in Segambut. Photo: Hannah Yeoh/Twitter
Long queue outside a food bank in Segambut. Photo: Hannah Yeoh/Twitter

Former youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s parliamentary constituency office in Muar and Hannah Yeoh’s food bank in Segambut were forced to close yesterday due to large crowds arriving for assistance such as food. 

Syed Saddiq revealed on social media last night that the police had instructed him to close his office from today for breaching unspecified COVID-19 protocols, although news reports indicated that it was the Health Ministry that gave the orders. Meanwhile, Hannah apologized for closing her food bank in Segambut due to difficulties managing the crowd of 853 people.  

“My office can’t turn away people who want to come (for assistance) and I don’t have the heart to tell them to go home because the place is packed with people,” Syed Saddiq, 28, said.

Hannah said: “[An] 800 pax crowd isn’t easy to manage in a COVID pandemic especially when PN (Perikatan Nasional) Govt has not vaccinated foreign workers in KL. We do not have a waiting area big enough for such a crowd. We have adjoining residential areas and having hundreds outside their house is a traffic challenge.”

Hannah also refuted news reports on her social media channels that the closure of her food bank was initiated by the police. 

“My FB post states that our food bank had to be stopped after DISCUSSING with the police. Not ordered to stop. The policemen in Segambut have been very helpful during all our food distribution,” she wrote online today. 

Queue outside Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s parliamentary constituency office in Muar. Photo: Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman/Facebook
The queue outside Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s parliamentary constituency office in Muar. Photo: Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman/Facebook

Numerous food banks have sprouted across Malaysia as the prolonged lockdown affected access to jobs, income, and basic necessities such as food. 

Syed Saddiq has been distributing aid at his office on Jalan Abdul Rahman, where more than 150 families usually come each day. But that number has since risen sharply over the past two days. The Muar MP claimed that he had done all he could to comply with safety measures, including engaging the People’s Volunteer Corps for crowd control and updating the police. 

An anonymous source said to be from the Health Ministry told reporters last night that the police were deployed to the Muar office on behalf of the ministry. 

“Apparently, KKM said all aid for the needy should be sent to the respective households and not be centralised at one premises to avoid COVID-19 infections,” the source was quoted as saying, referring to the ministry’s Malay acronym. 

Hannah said that she would mobilize volunteers from five Residents’ Association to help distribute aid. Police would also help in four areas under the enhanced movement control order.

“[We] Can’t do this daily. The needs coming from outside Segambut are also overwhelming for me,” she said, later adding: “Most importantly, (the) govt needs to face reality. Lockdown isn’t feasible anymore. People have no income, govt aid has not reached people.”

She concluded her statement by saying: “I encourage places of worship and other entities nationwide to consider running mini food banks if you can afford it. For how long? Until we pull through as a nation.”

Other stories:

‘The ship is sinking’: ‘Frontliners’ voice anguish over Malaysia’s COVID-19 crisis (Video)

Diving into Malaysia’s turtle crisis and why locals can’t stop eating their eggs

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