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Friday, June 2, 2017

A TN50 ‘townhall’ dialogue session with drug users



A first-of-its-kind TN50 dialogue session was held with 70 active drug users in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, last night.
Fauziah Abdullah, one of the few women at the session, stood up to speak. She has been drug dependent for 40 years.
“I am 52 years old this year and I have no IC (identification card),” she said.
She lived on the streets when she was still in her teens after running away from her foster parents who used her as a maid, she explained. She has never met her real parents and thus has no access to any personal identification documents.
Fauziah started to tear and said she was too unwell to be speaking in front of a crowd. Moderator Mohammad Rizan Hassan gently egged her on.
“I have heart problems, asthma and chronic high blood pressure but I have trouble getting treatment because I have no IC,” she said before sitting down on the green and yellow tikar(mat) on the floor.
Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50) has since the start of the year called upon Malaysians to share their aspirations for the future of the country.
More than 33,000 aspirations have been recorded so far from 13 TN50 townhall-style dialogue sessions held across the nation with university students, young professionals, government servants, even celebrities.
However, many other strata of the society have yet to be heard.
Unlike the big halls used at previous TN50 sessions, participants in yesterday’s session voiced their aspirations on the first floor of a drop-in centre for the drug-dependent and homeless.
There were no banners, no circular centre stage, no large television screens. No one wore head-mounted microphones. And no one was slapped.
Help us get off drugs
“I have trouble getting jobs because I am on record a drug addict,” said Sapien Ibrahim, one of the participants at the session.
Difficulty landing jobs is why many recovering drug-dependents relapse into doing drugs again, he continued. Many in the crowd nodded in agreement.
Sapien added he had previously been denied wages by employers who leveraged on his fear of lodging police reports, forcing him to become homeless.
Nasharol CM Nasir groused about government transit homes, where recovering drug users and the homeless can take shelter.
“We want to start a new life but the problem is we are given only two weeks there. What can we do in two weeks? We need at least three months,” he argued.
Privacy was another issue in these homes.
“We are treated like tourist attractions. Many of us work through the night so we want to rest during the day, but we are made to undergo programmes organised by all these tertiary institutions at the homes. They come into our rooms,” he added.
Raja Azizan Suhaimie Raja Abdul Latif, who volunteers with the drug dependent, said his main concern was the welfare of the people he works with.
“People often forget about the basic needs of my friends who still use drugs.
“When they get to come into a drop-in centre like this, they get some rest and peace from being on the streets. Especially those who have just come out of jail or rehabilitation,” he said.
Besides shelter, food was a main concern for drug users trying to wean off drugs, added Raja Azizan Suhaimie, himself a former drug user.
A drug rehab for women
Meanwhile, volunteer Nor Akmar Ali hoped for a drug rehabilitation centre specially for women.
“There are many centres for men but only one for women in Bachok (Kelantan) so far. It is hard to get approval (from the authorities) for a centre for women. Finding a location is tough,” she said.
The session was organised by the Malaysian Youth Council (MBM) in partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sports. As with other TN50 sessions, suggestions and aspirations will be submitted to the TN50 secretariat in Putrajaya.

“Usually the ones giving opinions are the intelligentsia, university students and professionals.
“The lower rungs of society too have the right to express their views about how to shape a better government and a better society,” said MBM chief of information Mohammad Rizan, who hosted the session.
Activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi was also present as co-facilitator.
MBM is planning to hold similar sessions with sex workers and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. - Mkini

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