Datuk Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff

KUCHING: The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development is taking the issue of child neglect seriously.

Deputy Minister Datuk Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff said a total of six deaths involving children accidentally left behind in vehicles were reported in the country since 2018.

She explained that most of the victims were left and forgotten when their parents went to work or attend meetings.

“This year, two cases were reported, while in 2019, there were two cases, and also two cases in 2018. Even with the few amount of cases, for the affected parents and guardians, this involved the life of their child.

“As such, the ministry is taking preventive, advocacy, and intervention measures,” she told the Dewan Rakyat on Monday (Aug 3).

She was responding to a question from Kota Samarahan MP Rubiah Wang, who asked for details on the ministry’s action to address the issue.

“The steps that had been taken included amending Section 31 of the Child Act 2001 in 2016, which increases the punishment to provide a maximum imprisonment of 20 years, instead of 10 years, and a fine up to RM50,000, from RM20,000 previously, for offenders.

“The affected parents are also provided with counselling services,” she said.

Through the Family and Children Safety Education Programme (Peka) and the SMARTSTART premarital programme, she noted that collaboration with relevant agencies were also done to increase public awareness on the issue.

“The ministry also received feedback and suggestions from parents and the community, which were later discussed with relevant agencies, including the Road Safety Department and the Road Safety Research Institute. 

“Among them; the baby should not be placed in the back of the driver’s seat as it is a blind spot; as for the parents, placing important items such as handbags in the back seat or in the passenger seat, or placing the child’s bag in the front seat to serve as a reminder that their child is in the car,” she added. 

In response to follow-up questions on whether the ministry had implemented other methods such as counselling services and advice to the affected parents, Siti Zailah said there was an understanding of the feelings of the parents during the occurrence of unwanted incidents.  

“The ministry plays a role in providing counselling services to parents and the ministry also appreciates the initiative from several vehicle manufacturers, who are also aware of such incidents and providing their vehicles with a child reminder system, including the Waze navigation application.

“Ongoing campaigns through various mediums is important. Thus, the ministry will continue to seek cooperation from various agencies and ministries to ensure that this advocacy can have a greater impact in providing awareness to parents,” she explained.