Ambushing Datuk Ong Tee Keat

Datuk Ong Tee Keat with Peter Tan and Robert Wang at Pandan Perdana
Datuk Ong Tee Keat, Robert Wang and Peter Tan at Pandan Perdana.
Photo by Wuan.

My fellow advocate Robert Wang and I had planned to meet the Member of Parliament for Pandan Datuk Ong Tee Keat who is also the Minister of Transport regarding the problems with using public transport that disabled people all over Malaysia are facing.

As luck would have it, he came to Pandan Perdana to launch the Tasik Perdana Family Day last Sunday. Robert and I “ambushed” him as he was about to leave after a press conference. He stayed back for a while to listen to the two of us telling him about the problems with RapidKL, Rapid Penang, Star LRT and the built environment in general.

We also intimated to him that we have met with the previous Minister of Transport, other government officials and representatives from RapidKL but nothing much was done to resolve the issues. Unfortunately, according to him, RapidKL does not come under his ministry but under the Ministry of Finance. Nevertheless, Datuk Ong requested that we furnish him with more information on our complaints for him to understand the issue better.

Disabled People Blind To Real Issues Affecting Them

Disabled people are funny people – funny in an ironic way. On one hand, we are asking that our fundamental rights be respected. We demand for equalization in opportunities. We want to be treated equally. On the other hand, we are also demanding for privileges. We want to enjoy discounts on everything – bus fares, phone bills, road tax and toll charges among others.

We should realise that one cannot see both sides of the coin at the same time. It is either heads or tails. If we want to be treated as equals, then we should be playing our part as equals. We cannot have the cake and eat it too. If we want the same services or facilities that other people are enjoying, then we should be prepared to pay the same price that everyone else is paying.

Rights and privileges are not interchangeable. We must understand the difference between the two. Privileges are things that are given out of goodwill and can be taken back at the wink of an eye. Rights are inalienable. It is not something that can be bestowed or revoked at whim. And rights must come first before anything else. That must be the priority in all disability advocacy activities.

At a time when our rights to accessible built environment and public transport in Malaysia is virtually non-existent, it is rather disappointing to hear my peers fussing over the 50% discount on bus and LRT fares provided by RapidKL to disabled people. By asking for such petty handouts, we are discarding our dignity to portray ourselves as objects of charity, pity and sympathy. Is that the impression that we really want to propagate about what disabled people really want from society?

That was exactly what happened at a meeting organised by the Malaysian Confederation of the Disabled (MCD) last Saturday to facilitate a survey conducted by the Malaysian Institute of Transport (MITRANS) based at the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Shah Alam. The survey was to collect data on the public transportation needs of disabled people for the Master Plan on Public Transportation Policy that was commissioned by the Ministry of Transport.

Instead of focusing on the importance of equal access which is the main stumbling block in mainstreaming disability, some participants were bent in complaining about not getting the discount on bus and train fares. Please lar people, when tens of thousands of disabled people still cannot use the public transport, why are we talking about discounts? Have we become so petty that we only care for ourselves without a concern for those who are in situations worse off than ours? I am disappointed that people I regard as my peers in disability advocacy have lost sight of the big picture. We have truly missed the forest for the trees.

BEAT’s Meeting With Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy, Minister of Transport Malaysia

Dato' Seri Chan Kong Choy, Minister of Transport Malaysia

Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy, Minister of Transport, set up a meeting between the officials from the Ministry of Transport, public transport operators and BEAT to discuss about the various issues faced by disabled persons in Malaysia where mobility is concerned. The meeting was held at the Ministry’s office in Putrajaya at 12.00pm just now. Among the transport operators represented in the meeting were Rapid KL, Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia, Keretapi Tanah Melayu, Malaysia Airports, KL Sentral and Jabatan Pengangkutan Jalan.

The Minister announced that Deputy Secretary-General (Planning) Long See Wool will head a committee and set up meetings between transport operators and BEAT to resolve issues regarding public transportation. We were also informed that all public transport will be made accessible. This aspect is part of the term of reference for the National Transport Master Plan that will be drawn up after the completion of studies conducted in all capital cities in Malaysia.

BEAT Assistant Coordinator V.Murugeswaran presenting the recommendation to Dato' Seri Chan Kong Choy, Minister of Transport Malaysia

At the end of the meeting, BEAT presented a recommendation to the Minister to make all public transport inclusive. We highlighted that no one should be left out in all future developments of the public transportation system in Malaysia. It is important that the mobility needs of disabled persons be looked into seriously in order provide us equal opportunities education, employment and other acivities.