One netizen who was visiting her aunt at a welfare home in Malaysia discovered a curious sight at the facility: disabled children were kept locked in concrete cages. After photos of her discovery were uploaded on social media, the images immediately went viral and netizens were quick to attack the home.
The Handicapped Children’s Welfare Home reportedly keeps the disabled kids locked in “cages” to keep them from hurting each each other, claimed the Welfare Department. The department further explained that the decision to keep them in there was to protect not only the special needs children but also the other young residents there, the Straits Times reported.
In response to the criticisms, the home’s chairman explained that the photos seen online do not paint what actually goes in the facility. Chairman R. Sivalingam vehemently denies any mistreatment and stated that the home had been unfairly accused of cruelty. According to Sivalingam, 10 of the 47 residents at the home are suffering from “extreme” mental conditions.
He added that these residents were being well looked after by the staff at daytime and even allowed to roam freely in the compound. Only during bedtime were the kids confined to their “special cubicles” where they are provided with mattresses and pillows.
“If we allow them to sleep in the hall, or in the rooms like the rest, they will hurt one another. It is for their own safety and the safety of the other inmates that we need them to sleep in the cubicles,” he said.
“If we don’t do this, they will bite one another, hurt the eyes of the other residents, or go naked. They would even defecate and throw faeces at the rest,” he was quoted as saying.
Sivalingam also explained that while the home was established some 45 years ago, the “special cubicles” were only built in 2006. Before he became the chairman of the facility, he claimed that the children suffering from severe mental conditions were simply tied with ropes to keep them from inflicting injuries to one another.
“I felt that was the wrong way to treat them. Therefore, the idea to build the special cubicles came about,” Sivalingam said.
“Most of them are orphans, and were referred to us by the Community Welfare Department, outsiders who spotted them on the streets or by hospitals after they are discharged, often after being involved in accidents,” he added.
The chairman’s claims was also backed up by the Community Welfare Department in Kinta District. Department officer Noor Hanizah Zulkafli confirmed that the home was registered with the department and echoed Sivalingam’s reasoning that the residents were placed in the cages because they were aggressive.
“It is for their own safety, and the safety of the rest,” she added. The State Community Welfare Committee has also confirmed that the facility has fully complied with the Standard Operating Procedure for such facilities.
A volunteer also visited the site and conducted an interview with a parent of one of the patients residing in the home. The mother disputed claims that there is any maltreatment done to her child.