Kuala Lumpur criminalising the marginalized

Working on a borrowed laptop, mine is somewhere in storage. Back in Kangar, with this annoying afternoon humidity. Anyway it's never a good idea to be carrying old laptops during rural outreach, but heck was feeling adventurous. Now, furiously distracted and not even glancing at my notes with the broken pen somewhere lodged in between the crumpled A4-sized papers.

The outreach to meet farmers and impoverished, out-of-school young people proved to be challenging in some aspects of coordination, particularly the focus group discussions. 17 people altogether, with 7 representing their peers, within the age of 16-22, of school drop-outs. Not an easy feat to mobilize indigenous Orang Asli young people, with the location, the isolation and the distrust of anyone not from their age-group.

There's a knock on the door. "Masuk la, tak payah ketuk." (Come in, there's no need to knock). Edgy, the laptop is not working properly, something about the need to defragment the hard disk. Damn.

One of the youth leaders, a short man with long hair, a snub-nose and cheeky smile, though he's not smiling now. It's humid, and I'm completely in the realms of distraction. There you go, my focus is gone. Screw the report.

"Abang sibuk?" (Are you busy, elder brother?) He ask, as he combs his ruffled hair with his fingers. He appears to be agitated.

"My report..." I wave at the paperwork on the small table. "But its ok, what's on your mind, Mat?" I close the laptop screen. Hell, I'm in the mood to delete the executive summary with a touch of the keyboard or throw the device against the wall. Even during the month of Ramadan such thoughts are gladly entertained. Shaking the head, partly to myself.

Mat stands, his left hand behind his back, though I don't need to burn a brain cell to know he has a lit cigarette in between his fingers. Being younger than me, by almost 20 years, the culture is one doesn't smoke in front of the "elder" -- that being me, unless I will it so. I sigh. Motion him to sit on the flimsy plastic chair.

"Abang, have you eaten?" he ask, as he sits on the floor, ignoring the chair. Customs dictate pleasantries must be fulfilled, and people still frown upon those without manners.

"No, I'm fasting, but thanks for asking. Would you like coffee?" I motion to the small pantry, barely 8 feet away. Its a modest room, within my budget, a bedroom turned into a temporary office. Mat shakes his head. "You can smoke in front of me, you know ya." I say. He smiles. The cigarette is already on his lips.

"Have you heard the latest news? That one la, Tengku Adnan (Malaysia's Federal Territories Minister) and the poor people in KL?" He ask.

"Yes, I tweeted about this issue yesterday and just now." My reply threatens to bring about that disgust that I have for the overbearing ruling elites, or when I talk about ultra Melayu nationalists. "Why?"

"Gila kan." (Madness, isn't it) Though the words didn't sound like a question to me.

"Yeah la. Idiocy of the elites, such things happen all the time. Nothing new." I say.

"But why is he doing this? Is it a political move?"

I shake my head. Perhaps politically-motivated but I have my doubts; the minister's rationale to conduct a crackdown during on beggars, urban poor and prevent community-based soup kitchen services during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Source: the malaysian insider

"Didn't he say the poor are tarnishing the image of Kuala Lumpur?" My reply, its more of a loaded statement. I detest the prevalent caste system of ostracising the homeless and the poor. Nor have I hid that fact from the people I talk to, or via tweets. I am disgusted at the indifference, this institutionalised behaviour of repression based on class and elitist so-called sensibility.

"Where are they going to be sent?" Mat ask.

"Hell knows. In some piss-hole somewhere, I'm sure." I'm starting to feel tense, a normal predicament when I boil with rage. I struggle, as I always do, when I'm in such foul mood.

"What do we do now?" the young man ask. He inhales deeply, the cigarette in between his nicotine-stained fingers.

"We do what those old people were supposed to do." My reply was short. The pounding, that invisible hammer slamming against my skull.

"What is that, Abang?" he ask. This man is full of questions, though I don't find him a nuisance, not even one bit. I stand up. Mat appears startled.

I smile.

"We 'educate' these old farts and elites. We tell them, again and again, about compassion, about humility and about the deep awareness about those living in poverty and struck down by misery."

"Jom!" (Come on!) Mat shouts, almost leaping to his feet.

Aye. Indeed. Most definitely. I grin.


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