Doing The Right Thing


Masjid Jamek, Kuala Lumpur.
Photo by Wuan.

Ignorance is bliss. There is truth in this. How happy I would have been if I were contentedly unaware of the risks of being buried under tons of rubble in an earthquake or burnt beyond recognition in a fire. Without a systematic evacuation plan, the possibility of that happening is more truth than a figment of my overactive imagination.

Many times I have asked myself if all these letter writing to the building manager and copying it to the authorities are worth the stamps on the envelopes. The parties who are able to make a difference are indifferent. The authorities do not want to act. The building manager could not care less. Why, then, am I wasting time, money and effort in pursuing this matter?

In retrospect, this is not about me. It was never about me in the first place. The world would have moved on without me anyway. It is about your grandparents with mobility problems and living in a high-rise. It is about your brother or sister who is physically disabled and living in a high-rise. It is about one of your parents who is recovering from a stroke or a heart attack and living in a high-rise. It is about your cerebral-palsied child living in a high-rise. This is all about the people you truly love and care about. Would you allow the risk of injury or death to befall them when you know something could have been done to minimize the threat? This could be about you, too.

My progressing ailment robs me of the vitality to do much. Fatigue haunts me throughout the day. In such depressing situations, giving up is an attractive proposition indeed. My time would have been better spent doing things that I enjoy. This is not one of them. The pessimist in me sees no profit whatsoever from this undertaking. Moreover a long uncertain path lies ahead.

Still, I continue because this is the right thing to do, because my faith taught me never to give up in the face of adversity. Those who have supported me in this endeavour are the source of strength that is thrusting me onward. Mack is especially instrumental in keeping the flame of hope burning for me. Every time I come across the yellow banner in a blog, I am motivated and touched at the same time. These are the handful of Malaysians who are sympathetic to this cause because they genuinely believe that even one life is worth saving, more so that of a less fortunate person.

They recognised that some segments of society simply need more assistance than others. It certainly is not too much for the physically challenged to ask for a fighting chance to survive a disaster. Those in the position of power must do all within their means to make it so. They have a fiduciary duty to protect the weak and the needy. A society cannot label itself civilised unless it embraces altruism as one of its core values. Are we there yet? You be the judge.

Latest letter to the developer/building manager:
Dated 23rd May 2005

Related category:
Building Manager From Hell

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. Columnist of Breaking Barriers in The Borneo Post. Principal Trainer at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.

10 thoughts on “Doing The Right Thing”

  1. Hey, do you have alliances with the newspaper or friends working in the media? Get their help to either post an article about this or get them to interview you on the matter. The mass media receives most attention compared to blogs.

    What about writting to a columnist? I read The Sunday Mail and I especially pay attention to Chan Wai Kong’s little column. He is especially concerned about the current issues and all. Write to him. Let me know if you need his email. Good Luck!!

  2. Doey,
    Thanks for the suggestion. We are looking into it. I will get the contacts from you should we decide to move in that direction.

  3. My elderly uncle was forced to move out of his home after he faced similar problems with his building manager (this was about maybe 10 years ago). So, thank you for being the voice for the silent ones. It’s not easy, especially in a country where everyone’s enthusiastic for the first 5 minutes before promptly forgetting about it all to watch TV.

    And not to sound pessimistic, but no, we’re not there yet at all. But it’s something to work for I suppose.

    Blogs won’t do as much for publicity like the media can, but would it help if more of us bombarded the ministry with letters? Take support a step further. I think half of our officials don’t even read the newspapers, let alone blogs.

    Plus, you don’t have to lick as many stamps that way. =)

  4. Doey made a good point, Chan Wai Kong’s column is usually pretty interesting.

    Or you can do what my cousin does meanwhile: Her family stays at a lower floor to make exiting the building faster and easier.

  5. There’s a guy called Anthony Thanaseyan who writes weekly columns in the Star called Wheel Power. Try writting to him. Judging from his articles, he does have powerful contacts. And if he highlights this plight, it would generate enough publicity for something to get done anyway.

  6. priya,
    The press is good for publicity but I would like to exhaust what I am doing now before going in that direction.

    Lainie,
    Ditto. Let me exhaust the options I have now before moving on to the press.

    vincent,
    I know Anthony. If what I am doing fails, the press is the next resort.

  7. RE: Means of Escape for Disabled Persons in Malaysia

    Hi Peter,

    Apologies for commenting this late as I have only just recently read your blog.

    At one time, I noticed a Malaysian Standard, probably just drafted and not gazetted, called Means of Escape for Disabled Persons in Malaysia.

    I know for a fact that Uniform Building By-Law 34A, from the Steets, Building and Drainage Act, states that disabled persons must be allowed access into and out of building and it refers to Malaysian Standard 1184 (if I am not mistaken, please consult Tan Kuan Aw of the Society of Disabled Persons Penang, he has a copy), and there is also a guideline done by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. (Kem. Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan – KPKT)

    When you complain about things in Penang, you can write to Cik Patahiyah Ismail of the Architect’s Dept. at MPPP and cc or directly to Mr Fong Tian Yong of KPKT, under Timbalan Ketua Pengarah, Jabatan Kerajaan Tempatan, KPKT.

    Why I am giving these two names, it is because, I believe they will action it, somehow.

    The Building Manager will not be getting away with things. We have got to voice ourselves so that the law will be enforced. Although things may be slow to act, with the right contacts, the issues and complaints are being recorded, and things will be done eventually. We have to ‘work hard’ for answers and accountability.

    That is why things will run so slow, unless with get the Disabled Persons Act to be enacted by Parliament. This one also we need to push. Why is it languishing for so long in Parliament? That Act will have more bite to it. It has an anti-discrimination side to it. Perhaps, that is why it takes a long time…

    If that Act gets enacted, however, we have to get a Commission to enforce it.
    Refer to http://www.drc-gb.org/
    as an example of what a Commission do.

    So many many things to do, but we have got to do it together. Push, push, push…

    All the best.

  8. LecturerUM,
    I did not know such guidelines existed. Thank you for sharing. As for the Uniform Building By Law, some developers adhere to the reuirements but do not follow the specifications. Ramps were built too steep and without railings. You are very knowledgeable in such subjects. I would very much like to meet you over a meal to talk about all these.

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