SUVA BEGGARS STILL A CONCERN

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By Jona Bola

SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 3, 2002 – Sun)---Beggars continue to flood the Capital City despite efforts by authorities to remove them from the streets.

The Suva City Council, Ministry of Social Welfare and the Police Department have been tracking down beggars over the past few weeks, asking them to leave the city streets as of yesterday, but to no avail.

Mark Singh, a 19-year-old who has been begging for more than two years, said police officers had asked him to stop begging even before the SCC, the ministry and police launched their project.

Police, however, said the officers were just doing their duty.

According to Suva Lord Mayor Councillor Chandu Umaria, they were still studying the process to be followed in trying to remove the beggars from the streets.

"We are looking at two weeks time to clear all those who are not supposed to be on the streets begging for money and food," he said.

He said it would be a long process and not an overnight thing.

Cr. Umaria said the beggars agreed to move off the streets provided necessary assistance for them is sought.

Senior Police Superintendent Romanu Tikotikoca, however, said there had been no formal communication between the police and the other two authorities in regard to the matter.

SP Tikotikoca said although it was illegal to beg, forcing beggars off the streets would not solve the problem.

"If these beggars are taken to court and jailed, they will come back on the streets as soon as they return, since they do not have any other alternative to earn money," he said.

SP Tikotikoca said trying to solve the problem was like swimming against a strong current.

He added that since the problem was a social one, the society had a role in assisting those in need.

"The message that these people are indirectly telling us is that there is not enough love at home," SP Tikotikoca said.

For additional reports from the Fiji Sun, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Sun.

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