The house is spacious but cramped with the heavy burden of despair. Mrs. Chua* spends most of her day working around the house and tending to her husband’s sister who is bed-ridden and senile. A volunteer doctor, who chose to remain anonymous, visits regularly to tend to the woman’s wounds.
Another family sits in a house perched on a small hill, hidden away from the main section of Kampung Perting. The man of the house lost his wife to ovarian cancer and his son to liver cancer, while his daughter-in-law lives with the family in a state of depression over her loss. The sleeping area is cramped with no lights and rain is a constant worry as the leaky roof can barely keep the house dry.
In a separate home, Mr. Hu, a stroke victim waits patiently for the day when he would be able to rest permanently. He lost the function of his body 10 years ago and now depends entirely on his wife and 2 children for care. A practising acupuncturist has volunteered to visit him once a week to provide free treatment.
Having lost her leg to diabetes a number of years ago, she moves around on a wooden plate with wheels, often wondering of the day her son would return and help her. The wooden plate was designed and sourced by Ms. Pay (pictured below) a social worker who couldn’t bear seeing Ms. Lim drag herself around on a cushion.
Ms. Lim lives only a short walk away from the previous house, in a room she rents for RM50 per month, inclusive of utilities.
Ms Pay, a dedicated social worker, insists on helping those in need even if it means reaching into her own pockets. She collects and distributes rice to the poor, helps them handwrite letters of appeal to Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat (Welfare Department), and more of often than not, literally begging the Member of Parliament for help. Her efforts are often dampened by state councillors and politicians who are only interested in how many votes their aid can buy. She constantly talks about being the most hated person in the community simply because she refuses to sit idle and wait for the right aid from the right person. A string of promises has been made by many parties but as always, none are expected to be kept. The mantra is always the same, “vote for me and I will help you.” Visits by the MP and any other elected personnel only offer temporary relief in the form of petty cash handouts and more promises; whatever it takes to look good in the newspapers.
She sets up shop at an empty corner-lot where the Persatuan Peminat Burung used to hold ground. The space is filled by 2 wooden tables where during the day residents can read 3 different daily newspapers and enjoy a cup of tea for free. At night, the women turn it into a mahjong battlefield. In the middle of the space is a small stack of rice, which she distributes according to the residents who need it the most.
One common trait I observed in the visits around Kampung Perting is the disturbing prevalence of terminal diseases (cancer and diabetes) and the proper education required to deal with such cases. Ironically, the Member of Parliament for Bentong is Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, a Health Minister and the current Deputy President of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) which is the second largest component party of the ruling coalition, BN. The battle for the seat in the recently concluded General Elections turned into a national controversy as there were alleged blackouts which resulted in suspect increase in the number of votes favouring the ruling coalition. In contrast to the previous elections in 2008 where Liow won with a comfortable majority of 12,549, this time around he barely scraped through with 379 votes.
LIOW TIONG LAI
Kampung Perting itself is relatively ancient, with long blocks of completely wooden houses and no street numbering. Each house is assigned a number with the first digit indicating the ‘block’ or ‘street’ number. The streets are narrow, lined with houses turned into saloons and coffeeshops, and a steady stream of cyclists. Just outside the house of one of the families badly in need of counselling and basic medical supply, there was a small sign which promises new roads by the state government, as if it has not been highlighted enough that the resources should be channeled into benefiting the community through other means. At this point, the only road that would lead to any change is the one paved by those elected by the people themselves.
With such a reduced majority, Liow has the option between admonishing the voters for not appreciating his past efforts just as some other BN politicians have done, or simply serve the people honestly as an elected representative should.
*All names have been replaced to protect their privacy. Any parties willing to either donate, volunteer or champion a cause can get in touch with me directly at email@example.com.