SUKA SOCIETY WAS INTERVIEWED BY MASAMI MUSTAZA OF THE NEW STRAITS TIMES TO SHARE ON MISING CHILDREN IN OUR COUNTRY. READ THE ARTICLE BELOW –

KUALA LUMPUR: Three years after it was first proposed, Malaysia looks set to have its own early alert system for missing children.

Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said details of the system had been finalised and were ready to be presented at next week’s cabinet meeting.

The system is named NUR (National Urgent Response) Alert. Previously, it was dubbed NURIN (Nationwide Urgent Response Information Network) Alert.

The proposal for the system was brought to the attention of the ministry by Jasni Abdul Jalil, uncle to child murder victim, Nurin Jazlin Jazimin. Jasni, together with some friends, had drafted a proposal and submitted it to Shahrizat’s ministry in 2008.

The Nurin Alert was modelled after the United States’ Amber alert — an emergency response system that galvanised the authorities and the community via a comprehensive network to locate missing children.

After receiving the proposal, many rounds of meetings with non-governmental organisations, governmental agencies and media representatives were held to get their input.

Shahrizat, after a meeting between ministry and police officials yesterday, said the system would focus on missing children aged 12 and below.

“The system will be headed by the police and assisted by the ministry, with the collaboration of other stakeholders,” she said, adding that the list of stakeholders would be announced later.

“Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said he wanted an immediate implementation of the system. We had discussed about the system earlier.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Hussin Ismail said cases of missing children would be investigated by the Criminal Investigation Department.

“When such reports are lodged, all details would be disseminated within 24 hours to the various channels to ensure early detection of the children and to prevent them from being taken out of the country.”

The channels would include government agencies, corporate bodies such as banks, hotels and transport companies, and the media.

Suka Society (Suara Kanak-Kanak) Malaysia executive director Anderson Selvasegaram said the NUR Alert was a useful tool but there needed to be a more comprehensive approach to tackling the issue of missing children.

“When we talk about missing children, cases concerning younger children usually involve kidnapping. A concern is when would be the best time to send out the alert as there were cases when, if done early, it could jeopardise the safety of the children as the kidnappers may panic and harm them.

“It’s important to know what are the procedures or trigger mechanisms available for these cases,” he said, adding that community awareness was also a crucial factor.

Shelter executive director James Nayagam said parents still believed that they lived in a village where it was safe for their children to play unsupervised.

“In many cases of missing children, the parents, when asked, said they thought their children were ‘just around the corner’. If parents don’t change their mindset, then we will continue to have a repetition of cases.”

Council of Welfare and Social Development Malaysia vice-president Datin Khatijah Sulaiman said implementing the NUR Alert would be a good move.

“We must have some kind of system to tackle the issue of missing children but it would need the cooperation of everyone for it to work. For now, I’ll see how it goes but it’s something that we need.”

In 2008, police records revealed that seven children below the age of 12 were reported missing. Six were found, with one still missing.

In 2009, 50 children below 12 were reported missing. Forty-five were found, with five still missing, while in the first 11 months of last year, 57 were reported missing with only 35 found.

As for children aged 18 and below, there were 1,174 reported missing in 2008 (655 were found), 1,048 (497 found) in 2009 and 711 (347 found) last year.