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Friday, August 30, 2013

‘We’re not refugees, we’re Malaysians’

A group of desperate Malaysians living in squalor are at their wits end on where to shift now that they have been issued an eviction notice.
SUBANG: It’s been 20 years since this colony of 118 Indian families in a dilapidated Kampung Bunga Raya longhouse settlement saw remotely decent surroundings.
Living in abject poverty, despite having purchased a house in a compensation-deal in 1994, they now face eviction from their snakes-, rats- and insect-infested environment.
So dire is their situation that the community is prepared to return to the government their most ‘prized possession’ – their MyKads and citizenship.
“What is the point of being citizens when we are treated like refugees in our own land. We live worse than beggars. We don’t have toilets and any other basic facilities.
“We have a water source that we share. We use the nearby petrol kiosk to shower and for our daily usage. Sometimes, we use the nearby bushes as our toilets.
“For the women and children it harder at night if they need to use the toilet,” said Ramachandran Krishnan, the community spokesman.
Kampung Bunga Raya is not in boondocks of Malaysia. It’s in urban and ‘happening’ Subang.
It’s a place that both Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat candidates are familiar with, claims another resident Kamala Selvendran, who lives in squalour with her husband and five children.
“Every five years, politicians and NGOs visit us for votes but until now no one has done anything to look into our plight.
“We are Malaysian Indians. We are not refugees and we encourage other Malaysians to visit our homes to see our actual condition,” she told FMT.
Bitten by a snake
The most difficult times she said was when it rains and their homes were flooded.
“We usually sit on our bed and wait till the flood resides. Our family is lucky as we have beds, some of the residents sleep on the floor and we feel sorry for them,” said Kamala.
To add to their woes, these residents are often visited by snakes and centipedes due to the dirty condition they live in.
Relating her situation, another resident Athiletchumi, 36 said: “We find snakes in our house almost on a daily basis, we ignore it and it does not disturb us.
“However, I was unlucky one day when a snake fell on me from the rooftop and bit me,” she said adding that she survived because her husband rushed her to the hospital.
In 2008, this colony was hit by the Chikugunya virus transmitted to humans by mosquitoes.
According to Ramachandran 70 of them were affected by the virus, adding that disease and illness were common in the colony due to its dirty and unhygienic conditions.
But life wasn’t always like this for residents in Kampung Bunga Raya.
Up until 1974, the community was living in Kampung Subang under better conditions.
But the developer decided to develop the Kampung Subang land and offered them the current place as a temporary site until their compensation houses were built.
Rude shock
Said Ramachandran: “Two people known to us as Krishnan and Rajagopal from MIC brought us here saying that we will be given houses at discounted prices in a land allocated for them by Sinar Fadzilat, a development company.
“We met the developers and were promised houses at RM42, 000 with a few terms and conditions attached. We agreed to take the houses and signed the agreement.”
Since the agreement, these residents have been serving a housing loan with Ambank for houses which they are yet to see.
“Another development company then took over the land and amended the terms and conditions to our purchase. The houses are now beyond our means and we are not agreeing to it,” said Ramachandran.
He further explained that they have been battling the issue for the past 20 years.
“We approached the BN state government and then Pakatan government after 2008, asking for help but until now there is no solution.
“In fact Iskandar Abdul Samad (state assemblyman) even asked us if such a settlement existed.
“We didn’t expect this from a state authority in charge of housing and development,” Ramachandran said, adding that Subang MP R Sivarasa would from time to time give the community some groceries and donations, “but donations wouldn’t solve our problems.”
Last Friday, these residents had a rude shock. They received a legal notice from a development company asking them to vacate the land in 30 days.
“We still haven’t found a solution to our 20-year-old problem and now the owner of this (Kampung Bunga Raya) land has sent us an eviction notice. We will we go?,” asked Ramachandran.

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