Life Is Cheap

Project Kasih has been doing a fine job in helping rebuild Aceh after the December 26 tsunami. Its members have visited the province many times to assess the situation and provide aid donated generously by the Malaysian public. There are images and tales of survivors, the devastation and on-going reconstruction projects.

Among Project Kasih’s notable efforts, the highlights of children orphaned by the killer waves is most heartrending. Those children not only lost one or both parents. They lost their homes and all they ever possessed as well. It was difficult enough for adults to get on with their lives after the disaster. Imagine how nearly impossible it is for these little ones when practically everybody in that region is affected as well. If you have money to spare, I encourage you to donate to Project Kasih. This cause is as worthy as it can get.

While those tsunami survivors are struggling against an uphill battle to rebuild the broken pieces of their lives, here in Malaysia, we are waiting for a disaster to happen and have no contingency plan to manage it. Raja Munir who visited me and saw for himself the situation around the compound of my apartment and wrote about that in Project Kasih. We shed a tear or two when we read about the misfortune of the Acehnese. In reality, we should be shedding tears for ourselves for continuing to expose our own to known and preventable risks to disasters.

The local authorities and government are indifferent to the potential dangers. Developers and building managers could not care less about the human lives other than fattening their bank accounts at the expense of apartment owners. Access for fire engines and ambulances into high-rise apartment compounds are often hindered by haphazardly parked vehicles and illegally constructed structures. Local councils refuse to act. While we cannot avoid natural disasters, we certainly can prevent and reduce the risk of manmade tragedies, if only the people who can make a difference care enough. But they do not. We never learn. Life is cheap. It really is.

Meeting Raja Munir

Raja Munir took time away from his busy schedule to drop in to see me just now. Peter was here too and amongst others, we discussed the Systematic Evacuation Plan initiated by Mack. I was also happy that I could get Mack on the phone and introduced him to Raja Munir. Both of them have been very active in promoting this cause which will not only benefit me alone but the thousands of mobility impaired persons who have no choice but live in high-rise dwellings. These two are fine examples of caring Malaysians. Together with the many bloggers who have adopted the yellow banner in their site, the voices of the silent minority are finally being heard. Thank you for making a difference.

Related category:
Building Manager From Hell

Raja Munir’s account of our meeting:
Meeting Peter

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