Earthquake in Malaysia

Facebook and Twitter is alive with chatter of earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter scale that hit off Sumatra near the city of Padang at 6.16pm just now. A tsunami watch has been issued for Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India. I did not feel a thing. Nothing moved. The water in the aquarium did not slosh about. The doors did not rattle unlike the time when even the floor moved under me for a good one minute or more and made me giddy.

Having moved to a single storey house now, I still feel for those who are staying in high rise apartments, especially people with mobility impairments. Section 40 of the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 (PWD Act 2008) states that disabled persons shall have the right to assistance in the event to natural disasters, among others.

I am interested in finding out if anything has been done to address this matter since my letter to Dato’ Seri Sharizat in May 9, 2005 regarding a systemtic evacuation plan for disabled people trapped in high rise buildings in the event of a disaster such as an earthquake or a fire. Dare I be optimistic and say that surely the government has done something since the PWD Act 2008 has already clearly spelt that out in as many words?

Persons With Disabilities Act According To The Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat Malaysia

Screenshot of Jabatan kebajikan Masyarakat website

According to the Jabatan Kebajikan Masyarakat Malaysia (Social Welfare Department of Malaysia) website, the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 (Akta OKU 2008) was passed in Parliament on December 24, 2007, was gazetted on January 24, 2008 and came into force on July 7, 2008.

Disabled people have been complaining that the PWD Act 2008 is purely an administrative act and toothless as there are no punitive measures for non-compliance or acts of discrimination. The JKM has a very interesting twist to these complaints that was published in the second paragraph of the same page in the website.

Akta ini memberikan pengiktirafan hak OKU dan menukar konsep OKU daripada konsep kebajikan kepada konsep ringt-based(sic). Tiada peruntukan penalti kerana bukan tujuan Akta ini untuk mengenakan hukuman kepada OKU. Walaubagaimanapun, ketidakpatuhan pihak-pihak kepada peruntukan Akta ini dan penaltinya akan dinyatakan di akta-akta, peraturan-peraturan dan undang-undang kecil lain yang berkenaan.

My translation of the above paragraph:

This act acknowledges the rights of disabled people and moves away from a welfare-based concept to the rights-based concept. There is no provision for penalties because it is not the purpose of this Act to punish disabled people. However, the penalties for parties not in compliance to this Act will be stated in other Acts, regulations and by-laws.

Wow! I am so relieved that disabled people will not be penalised under this Act. Penalised for what I do not know. Never mind that disabled people in Malaysia have been facing discrimination in society for as long as anyone cares to remember. Anyway, I have sent an email to the JKM to highlight this matter as I believe it is an error in phrasing the sentence. Hopefully, they will be more careful the next time they publish a commentary for something as important as the PWD Act in their website.

More disabled-friendly public transport ordered: The Star – April 14, 2009

The following is an excerpt from the Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 (Akta Orang Kurang Upaya 2008):

Access to public transport facilities

27. (1) Persons with disabilities shall have the right to access to and use of public transport facilities, amenities and services open or provided to the public on equal basis with persons without disabilities.

The issue about access to public transport for disabled people has been left lingering since the time disabled people came out to protest against Star LRT for barring us from taking the trains in 1994. More recently, when Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy was the Minister of Transport he had a meeting with disabled people at his ministry where he announced that all public transport will be made accessible. My friend Robert Wang and I approached Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat in August 2008 regarding the same issue when he came to Pandan Perdana to officiate an event at the Pandan Lake.

Today, The Star reported that Minister of Transport Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat has directed agencies under the Ministry to provide accessible facilities. It is time the Ministry of Transport stop dilly dallying with lip service only to this long standing issue and work together with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to look for ways to resolve it for once and for all.

The article quoted the Minister of Transport as saying that he had come across some cases where physically-challenged individuals struggled to get onto public transport. Struggling is an understatement. For wheelchair users, it is an impossibility. It is physically challenging for us all right. These challenges are created by a non-inclusive public transport and casued by the lack of enforcement of the Uniform Building By-Law 34A.

The government has acknowledged that access to public transport is a right for disabled people. So why are accessible facilities still not provided in this area? How long more do disabled people have to wait to be able to use public transport? And whatever happened to the Master Plan on Public Transportation Policy commissioned by the Ministry of Transport on 2008 under the Abdullah administration?

The Star Online
Home > News > Nation

Tuesday April 14, 2009
More disabled-friendly public transport ordered

KUALA LUMPUR: Agencies under the Transport Ministry, including KTM Bhd, have been directed to come out with more facilities to make it easier for the disabled who use public transport.

Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said yesterday there was still room for improvement in the facilities provided for the physically-challenged.

“We are aware that a lot of public transport facilities do not take their needs into consideration.

“At the fourth quarter of last year, I instructed several agencies under my ministry to take into account the needs of these individuals,” he told reporters after opening the KKAJ Vocational Centre for the Disabled in Bandar Baru Ampang here yesterday.


Overcoming obstacles: (From right) Resorts World Bhd deputy chairman Tun Hanif Omar sealing a packet of roasted green peas in the presence of Ong and Resorts World Bhd executive director Tan Sri Alwi Jantan during the opening of the KKAJ Vocational Centre for the Disabled in Bandar Baru Ampang in Kuala Lumpur.

Ong, who is the patron of the centre, said he had instructed the agencies to speed up the process.

“I wish to see the public transport system, whether it is under the purview of my ministry or other ministries, to take this matter seriously.

“I know it is not easy and there are a lot of obstacles but we must endeavour to overcome the challenges,” he said.

Ong said he had come across some cases where physically-challenged individuals struggled to get onto public transport.

“I do not think it is fair.”

Earlier in his speech, Ong said physically-challenged individuals needed assistance not in the form of welfare.

“They need help in the terms of training opportunities to excel in life and to compete with others. These are the key parameters that we should set our sights on,” he said.

The KKAJ Vocational Centre for the Disabled is set up by Resorts World Bhd and Kelab Kercergasan Ampang Jaya to give disabled people a chance to acquire skills and to earn an income for themselves.

The centre provides training in paper lamination, document binding and food packaging.