Saturday, November 24, 2007

TOMORROW I WALK ALONGSIDE MY INDIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS.

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.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

God bless you and although im not in the country now, i pray for your safety and the thousand others malaysian brother and sisters.
God is watching us zorro, He will be there to protect.

bayi said...

Thank you for opening my eyes and my mind to another view. There are excellent reasons for you to walk tomorrow. May the Lord bless you.

Anonymous said...

best wishes zorro and may god protect you and those present from harm by the devious.

lucia said...

good for you, zorro! if i'm in KL, i would have walk with my indian brothers and sisters too... for the same reason you do.

being from the society of st vincent de paul (church-based - society that helps the poor), the people that we 'adopt' to help, it seems 90% are indians. yes, lots of indians live in poverty. i had seen how the poor indians live - small little hut where all the members of the family are cramped together, and just a room where they sleep, eat, cook. terrible condition indeed.

you are doing the right thing to walk with them because of those reasons. it's sad though that there are some who don't support the walk.

zorro said...

Thanks people. Eric Voon of "I am a Malaysian" is picking me up this morning. I know you walk with us in spirit and solidarity.

psc said...

god bless you zorro.may the force be with you

LeeCK said...

Dear Sir,

You command my up-most respect for speaking up for the poors and destitute !

LeeCK

Anonymous said...

Well done, brother. You somehow keep to your Georgian spirit, anyway up here in Taiping, nothing much were heard about this rally, except for those who visit blogs. Sad to say, quite a few of my friends have a rather -ve attitude towards all these, they form their opinions from the dailys, and I have a hard time convincing them, anyway, what is important is that I managed to convince them.

Anonymous said...

I cried when I read this posting, Zorro, because I was reminded of some of the horror stories that I had seen years ago.
- a man and his wife working in a plantation as bonded labourers, earning RM200 between them, living in a shack, with the woman needing to provide sexual services to the plantation supervisor just to get a can of sardines and extra rice. The husband watches as she walks over to the supervisor's house, and comes back with the food.
- a lorry driver who quit his job because his kidneys had failed and he no longer had the strength to drive long distances. He went from one media organisation to another to get public donations because he had a family to feed. That was in 1994 - he's probably dead.
- countless families where the breadwinner is no longer able to work - either due to an illness or accident that left them paralysed. And Welfare Dept gives them between RM50 and RM200 a month.
- a woman's application for a hawkers licence getting rejected. She needs to support her family. Her husband met with an accident and was paralysed
- women forced into prostitution when the rubber plantations where they had been living for generations get fragmented and they are forced to leave. these girls, who only speak Tamil and have almost no education, landed in chow kit area and did the only job they knew.

The list is endless. I had forgotten a lot of these stories, Zorro.
Actually, I purposefully push them out of my mind because they are too painful to remember, and I feel so helpless. Once in a while I get reminders like your posting here, and sadness just engulfs me.

I waiting for some form of reform in society.

V

Anonymous said...

Sir,
I want to sit and have a long cool one with you. Tell me where we can meet.

zorro said...

Thanks anak2 Bangsa Malaysia for caring. Am now working on postings on this morning's WALK.

Anon 8.43pm....anytime son, at the National Press Club Tues and Friday.

God's Love on All of You.

Zorro challenger said...

Hi, Zorro!
Those stories of yours really broke my heart!

today is Sunday 7 you haven't updated your blog...are you in jail? How was the taste of tear gas & stinging chemical spray???

I sincerely hope you're okay, champion of the destitute...

SH Tan said...

Poverty is having only RM2 in your pocket and trying to decide if you should spoil yourself to a cup of kopi-O or a loaf of bread which will be your sustenance for the next 2 days.

God bless you, Zorro.

zorro said...

Zorro Challenger, No I am not in jail. The tear gas was seering, but beers with Eric and a good swim cleared everything.

I was just able to get into my blog to moderate....firefox couldnt upload until ten minutes ago...will post now 1.11am and off to bed.Tks for concern.

Anonymous said...

Bernard Sir,

You and the La Salle teachers of those days are a rare breed. You remind me of my past teachers in Brickfields who made it a point to ensure the poor students be it Malay, Chinese or Indian pass the exams so that they can have a better future than their parents.

Cheer Cheer and Courage display
All Ye La Sallians join in the lay
What though the odds be

The La Sallians out there hopefully will do their part too to bring a change.

Your former teacher is leading the way again and as La Sallians we must prevail and arise to help the poorest of the poorest..

A Brickfields La Sallian

zorro said...

Brickfield's LaSallian...I know them all...Albert Rozario, the late Ratnasingam, Kok Kim, Raja, Dennis Armstrong....all beer buddies of the sixties and seventies.

Here is my contribution:

Cheer, Cheer and courage display
All you LaSallians join in the fray,
Send the volleys of cheers from high,
Shake down the thunder from the sky;
What though the odds be great or small,
Dear LaSallians will win over all
While our loyal sons go marching
Onwards to victory,
LA SALLE!

We have passed the batons to you...
PASS IT ON to others.Cheers son.

terry said...

with all due respect zorro.. it's a fools errand!

Anonymous said...

Poverty in Malaysia, a land of plenties is due to the inequitable distribution of wealth and resources.

BN politicians and their cronies have always rob the country by whatever means they can.

We spent USD 20 mil to send a space tourist to ISS to play gasing while TV3 is busy raising fund for the poors and destitute via its reality programs (no disrespect meant for the program crew and the personalities featured ) .

The present regime indeed has failed the people........

JP said...

Uncle,

Its indeed an honour to write to you. I am proud to have a fellow malaysian who stands for others and speaks the truth. I have read all your comments... its was enriching! I have felt strongly about what is happening in this country,eager to do something about it. I have a dream.... I want every malaysian discard their ethic origins and unite to be JUST MALAYSIANS. Pls let me know if i can assist u anyway i can.

Anonymous said...

Poverty in Malaysia -a land of plenty is man made- Government controlled deliberately to keep those poor out.

It is sickening that there can be such a government who does not recognise malaysians as equals to other malaysians.

The wolrd must see what real malaysian Government is.The tourist should cease travelling to malaysia until such policies against the poor are brought down like the apartheid.

Malaysia is for all malaysians.

Setan Gondrong said...

A very touching and timely post indeed. While our country lurches toward modernity there are still many who are left behind. It's about time the NEP is revamped so as to include ALL the poors regardless of race, instead of just poor Malays, or in its most perverted version, the UMNO-putra. A class-based, and not race-based, affirmative action is what I say.

Mikequah said...

Keep up the spirit. Keep going. Keep writing. Keep being who you are. You are a beacon, a believer. You help guys like me to step out of the cave more often. Strident voices and provocative gestures have frightening impact on faint hearts. But looking at you doing what decent men must do, I join you for now in spirit. My prayers and thoughts go with you and all the other good folks out to demonstrate that decency must be practised to build a just community and a just nation. May God bless you and all decent men and women of this country. May this walk bring peace and blessing for this nation.