My participation in this walk has got nothing, absolutely nothing to do with claiming compensation from the British Queen. It has got nothing to do with Hindraf. It has got nothing to do with being against the incumbent government. But it has everything to do with the marginalised Indians, Malays, and Chinese, especially the destitute and abject poor. The government has paid a lot of lip-service but done little to elevate our disadvantaged from the throes of poverty. And this, after 50 years of boasted prosperity. I am just an angry Malaysians who sees our priorities dissipated to sending people into space and pandering to the rich and famous under the guise of attracting tourist dollars, whilst the Malaysian poor grovel in stark poverty' I question how much of these earned money is channeled to the poor. I have always been an advocate of the NEP, in as long as the poor are in this loop. I still believe in this although the NEP has been hijacked to enrich the already bloated and corrupted rich elite, who under the guise of party politics, will wield keris and draw blood, all for a race. A hypocritical gimmick that works though.
Tomorrow's walk, despite the agenda of Hindraf, to me is the walk to address the plight of the poor amongst the Malays, Indians and Chinese. I hope the authorities see it that way. I really hope they do. If they do hit me tomorrow with whatever I hope they know that I am walking in support of some poor relative of theirs.
Do you know what being poor IS? I didn't until after 13 May. As a teacher, I never allowed the collection of school fees to eat into my period in class. All must pay their monthly fees on the first Thursday of the month....not before, not after. I did not understand why some could not bring Rm2.50 every first Thursday. I was hard on those who flouted this rule. I sure was hard on them. May 13 happened and my parish priest and I distributed food in Sentul Dalam. I found that some of my students lived in squalid Railway quarters. I was shocked because all along I have not seen what abject poverty was. How could human beings be housed in these small hovels they dare to call quarters! How can school kids ever study in such conditions? No wonder these kids barely make it, except by divine intervention.
When school re-opened I publicy apologised to the kids in my class for being hard on them over the payment of fees. I cried when i apologised individually to those in my class who lived in those railway quarters. After that I paid their monthly fees. I then got the Apex Club (of which I was Bursary Chairman) to raise funds for the poor.
Have you seen children fight with dogs over scraps in the dumpsters? I have outside Chow Kit wet market. I was wondering why a group of dogs were seated around a dumpster. Then one dog jumped in and immediately jumped out.....heads popped out and three young kids (aged maybe 7 or 8) reared their heads over the dumpster. They were scavenging for food! They have not done their job (collecting or eating) in the dumpster. The dogs had to wait their turn.
And what about Theresa from Seremban. She was 19 years old when she was apprehended by the authorities in one Seremban brothel. She went into it, to put food on the table for a crippled and bed-ridden mother and 5 siblings. Father had abandoned them. She was in the Good Shepherds home for wayward children in Ulu Klang for rehabilitation. I did welfare work there and met this pretty young prostitute. To cut a long story short, she approached me during one Sunday visit and told me straight in face, "Mr. Khoo, my sister Cecilia will have to do what I cannot do. She has to pay the Cambridge Certificate exam fees. She is a good student and she must take this exam." Money was collected and Cecilia took the exam and later gained a scholarship to do her Form Six. (What happened to Theresa and Celia will be for another posting....a happy posting).
Remember this May 2007 posting about Lisa and her four girls. She earns Rm500 as a contract cleaner but Rm350 goes to rental of a low cost flat she had to live in for the sake of her daughters. Karen and I met this family when we spent Sunday afternoons providing some tuition and food for a group of kids around the apartments. Karen identified them as a family we had to give more aid to. Thus began monthly provisions. However, when the person organising these feeding and tuition program heard about the treatment we offered, Lisa's girls were excluded from the sunday program. In protest Karen looked at other places to offer her help. Today she sews blankets to sale to raise funds for the poor and now spends Saturday mornings doing what she loves best....feeding the poor and helping kids with their school work. She still sees Lisa and the kids once a month. Karen works tirelessly for the poor. She knows what it is to be poor. My father-in-law was a mere bus driver with 13 mouths to feed in a rented timber-kongsi quarters that even the kongsi workers chose not to stay in.
I am walking for people like these. My walk may be of no consequence. It will not change our Malaysian landscape, but until we collectively make a first step, this will just be a dream. My vision is to see the plight of our destitute poor improve humanely. I keep reminding myself that VISION without ACTION is merely a dream.