Two elderly women died in crush as crowd rushed for free meal coupons: There is no such thing as a free lunch…

2 February 2019


WE thank MP for Petaling Jaya Maria Chin Abdullah for highlighting the very relevant issue of poverty and her feedback on The Star’s recent story.

Yesterday, we published a cover story in StarMetro, “Old, poor and homeless”, which highlighted the very issue she mentioned. Our team began working on this story as soon as the news broke.

We are very much aligned in wanting to raise awareness on the poverty issue and other issues that impact Malaysians daily. That said, we are always cognisant of the role we play in society and appreciate any feedback, positive or otherwise, to allow us to learn and grow. We will also review the news angles and headlines she pointed out as well.

Our thoughts are also with the families who have been impacted by this tragedy. We can only hope that this will also serve as a lesson for us on the heavy responsibility we all have when it comes to taking care of the welfare of Malaysians.





I refer to the headline printed on the front page of yesterday’s (29 Jan) Star newspaper that reads ‘A Greed Tragedy’. The headline was about the tragic death of two women during a free food promotion programme for senior citizens in conjunction with Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur on Monday (28 Jan).

By using the word “greed” in the headline, the paper automatically implies that those who attended the event had insatiable, selfish desire for handouts. It also implies that these people do have enough money or food but are there for more. It takes away from the seriousness of the issue at hand, which is poverty, and dismisses the tragedy as merely a consequence of greed.

Poverty is a very real issue that many people Malaysians struggle with. If anything, the stampede on Monday tells us that we as Malaysians must do better to address the issue of poverty in this country. The tragedy also raises the question of elderly care and the challenges of an ageing society.

Blaming those involved in the stampede for being greedy is irresponsible and reflects appalling journalism.

This is not the first time that the Star has sensationalised its headlines in order to sell the news. Recent examples include calling the commemoration of the International Human Rights Day on 8 Dec a counter-rally to the ICERD rally; and the article on khalwat raids based on an interview with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religion), Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusuf Rawa titled ‘No More Moral Policing’ (Oct 6). I must insist that its editors be cautious and sensitive when doing so as it can be very misleading, raises misconceptions and tarnishes the image and reputation of others.

This was clearly seen when journalists covered the Education Minister and were fixated about unimportant things being said, such as, school shoes and swimming pools rather than writing about and questioning the value of the real structural and institutional reforms being proposed for education. Where were the questions on social integration of all schools in Malaysia when the Minister brought it up in Parliament?

More efforts should be made to ensure headlines are more reflective of the state of poverty in the country, and in particular, the neglect of the aged. Headlines are meant to draw attention to stakeholders, leaders and politicians on the extent of the problems. Some of the journalists seemingly are too ready to trade in complex narratives for simple, dramatic and entertaining stories.

Media freedom under the Pakatan Harapan Government is very precious and we are in an unique time where the media are accorded the opportunity to talk, investigate and highlight the issues that are plaguing our society.

The media must be reminded of its role as the fourth estate in upholding responsible and fair journalism and like the rest of us, be taken to task if they seemed to be more interested in creating inaccurate statements simply to get more clicks.
What’s more, it is a great disservice to the work of those journalists who have fought hard for press freedom and aimed to set greater standards of reporting for years.

Lastly, The Star needs to be more responsible with their headlines so that it does not end up creating villains and mislead its readers.

Maria Chin Abdullah

Petaling Jaya MP


1 Febuary 2019

THE deaths of two elderly women caught in a mad scramble for free food coupons on Monday have shocked the nation, but the incident should also serve as a wake-up call on the plight of seniors struggling to survive in the capital city.

The victims, Cheong Poh, 85, and Law Ion Nang, 78, died after collapsing in the crush of senior citizens trying to register for a charity buffet on Feb 11 in conjunction with Chinese New Year. Two others were also injured in the melee.

More than 1,000 persons aged above 60 thronged the hawker centre at the Pudu Integrated Commercial Complex (ICC Pudu) for the 200 free food coupons on offer and to grab some door gifts.

They lined up from as early as 5am in and outside the market complex, even though security personnel told them to come back only at 11am when registration would start. They refused to leave.

When the queue reached around 200 people, security personnel again urged the rest to leave, but they stood their ground despite physical discomfort for a slim chance of getting the coupons.

Word of mouth, and a small announcement in the newspaper apparently, sparked such frenzy that elderly persons from not just Pudu, but also Cheras, Sentul, Kepong and even one from Kuantan who happened to be in town, flocked to the venue.

ICC Pudu manager Chin Huey Yee, who was one of several people giving the above account, noted that homeless elderly were also spotted in the crowd.

She said the management verbally agreed to be the venue sponsor for the free-meal event as a continuation of a similar programme held last year.

Fruit seller Lew Ah Sze said many traders were shocked and saddened by the incident but added that most of them were not present when it happened because it was a day off at the market.

He said he could understand why such a huge crowd turned up because he could see that a lot of senior citizens in the area struggled to make ends meet.

“Being a senior citizen myself, I feel for them, it can be helpless at this age. There’s certainly a lack of care for senior citizens in our society,” he said.

StarMetro managed to speak to Jack Tan Hock Jin, 84, who has been living on the streets of Pudu for five years.

The widower left Bukit Mertajam, Penang, where he had no means to live, and settled in Pudu where he survives on daily free meals given out by religious bodies.

Every night, he finds an alley to sleep in, sharing the space with at least five other homeless elderly people.

“We cannot be out in the open, enforcement officers would chase us away if they see us.

“There are many of us who are not sure if we can have our next meal. These free meals are important to us,” he said, adding that he finally managed to register with the Welfare Department two months ago but is still waiting for a spot at an old folks’ home.

When asked how large the area’s homeless community is, he said they number about 200 people.

Trader Khor Ah Seng, 75, also gave a similar figure but claimed that most of them were drug addicts and foreigners loitering at the adjacent Pudu Sentral.

However, he said, there were about 30 homeless senior folk who have become “permanent fixtures” around ICC Pudu.

“They have no money, no job, no family to rely on either because they are single or have done bad in the past.

“Whenever there are food giveaways, they dash for the food and sometimes even fight among themselves, making it very difficult for charities and volunteers.

“In fact, some people call this Beggar Street because of the large number of old folk waiting for free food.|

Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai, when contacted, commented that the manner the free-meal programme was conducted was improper, irresponsible and showed a lack of experience.

He said he had attended larger-scale events catering to elderly persons but they were well organised, with Rela and medical personnel at hand.

He said the programme’s banner put up at ICC Pudu, which did not state the number of pax it would cater to but only “until stock last”, attracted a large group of seniors.

Meanwhile, he highlighted that urban poverty, especially among old folks, was getting worse.

“Malaysia is expected to be an aged country by 2030, where 15% of its population will comprise senior citizens. Our society is ageing fast, there’s a lot of grievances.

“The Government must plan holistically now by looking at various issues, among them housing, medical, salary versus inflation and cost of living,” he said.


29 January 2019


City police will call several members of the management of the Pudu Integrated Commercial Complex (ICC Pudu) to have their statements taken, following the death of two elderly women during a free food promotion programme.

The women died after they were caught in a group of at least 1,000 people rushing to collect free food coupons during a Chinese New Year event at the complex on Monday (Jan 28).

City police chief Comm Datuk Seri Mazlan Lazim said although the incident was classified as sudden death, they were investigating to ascertain if there was negligence involved.

“We need to investigate what preparations were made prior to the coupon giveaway.

Comm Mazlan said many of those who turned up for the coupons were the elderly.

“The post-mortem report will shed more light on the cause of death of the two women.

“We are waiting for the report. The bodies of the two women have also been claimed by their respective families,” he said.

It was reported that the victims, identified as Ah Poh, 85, and Law Ion Nang, 78, died after being critically injured in a rush for free food coupons when more than a 1,000 people dashed for just 200 free meals.

The free buffet meals were meant to be taken by Feb 11, in conjunction with the Chinese New Year festivities, but a huge crowd scrambled for the coupons at the hawker centre.




KUALA LUMPUR: A good intention ended in tragedy when two elderly women lost their lives trying to get their hands on a free meal.

The victims identified as Ah Poh, 85, and Law Ion Nang, 78, died after being critically injured in a rush for free food coupons when more than a thousand people dashed for just 200 free meals.

The free buffet meals were meant to be taken by Feb 11 in conjunction with the Chinese New Year festivities but a huge crowd scrambled for the coupons at the hawker centre at the Pudu Integrated Commercial Complex.

Ah Poh’s 50-year-old son, who goes by the name Hiew, said that he was in the dark of any coupon promotion.

“All I know is that my mother wanted to go to Pudu in the morning,” he said when met at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital mortuary yesterday.

He added that his mother had no known illnesses.

Earlier at the scene of the incident, a member of the ICC Pudu management, who declined to be named, said it was the second time that such a programme to donate coupons for a free meal was done in conjunction with Chinese New Year.

“It is the initiative of the tenants to provide a free meal for those who needed it. The coupon was meant to be used to gain access to a buffet-style meal on Feb 11 at the hawker area here.

“It was not this chaotic when the same programme was held last year,” she said.

Describing the scene as disorderly, she said many people flooded the area as soon as they heard about the free-meal programme.

“There were only 200 coupons available but hundreds turned up and the area just became choked with elderly people.

“Four people collapsed during the event and we had called for an ambulance but by the time it arrived, two women had passed away,” she said.

A 62-year-old security guard, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that four people were allowed each time to go into the office to register for the food coupons.

“However, those who were queuing ignored the directive and they began pushing each other. They were afraid of not making it to register for the only 200 coupons that were prepared,” he said.

During the incident, he said he heard screams and noticed that four elderly women had fainted and two of them were not breathing.

“I tried to save them but it didn’t work,” he said, adding that he only stopped trying when the ambulance arrived.


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