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Kampung Pictures Daily We can do better
We can do better PDF Print E-mail
Written by straits-mongrel   
Sunday, 29 November 2009 12:26

tlpg4The back half of these rows of terrace houses started coming down two weeks ago. It was on this desolate road at Kampung Sentul Pasar that we met Raja. His family is one of a handful left inhabiting the remains of houses, which once provided shelter for KTM staff. Sections of his roof are covered with frittered sheets of tarp.

“I'm okay with being resettled in a flat,” says Raja in Tamil. “But why send me and my family packing to a place deep at the fringe of Puchong? How do I start again? How do I find work? I was born and raised here in Sentul Pasar. My support is here. Sini boleh cari kerja – tolong bawa lori, angkat barang. It's as good as taking away my livelihood.”


His voice remains even, but it gets raspy from the built-up frustration. “Macam mana mau dapat susu untuk anak?” he gestures towards the direction of his wife and five-month-old baby.

Raja's problems highlight the core issues in the nation's task of resettlement and the urban poor. It's one thing to have a Zero Squatter policy, but another when we examine the means to this end. Current mechanisms lack a basic virtue: Heart.


These are human beings here.

For too long, we have relied on Cold War-era social housing ideas and methods. We cannot rely on  just one model – the 750 sq ft high-rise apartment unit – for the whole country. Nor can we simply decouple a family from its roots and economic links. True, these projects provide shelter. But they sever ties. They are not conducive for larger families. In many instances, these resettlement exercises are a continuing stigma to those who have been relocated.


And how do you accommodate members such as these?:



Family-owned cow grazing at a patch of shrubs in Kampung Tanah Lapang

We need choices. The late scholar-architect Chen Voon Fee once iterated: “For a building or a place to genuinely thrive, you have to maintain the patterns that exist. You cannot subvert. You mustn't overwhelm.”


There are sufficient affordable housing models from around the world, most notably Balkrishna Doshi's Aranya Community Housing project in Indore, India. It was undertaken by the local government, the Indore Development Authority. Implemented in 1983, this boldly imaginative project has been recognised numerous times over, including being awarded the Aga Khan Prize in 1995.


In her book, Architecture beyond Architecture, Cynthia Davidson writes about the project:

"But perhaps more important than the design goals this project has achieved are the social goals that it promotes, by creating common spaces where Muslims, Hindus, Jains and others in this neighborhoods can mix, the project promotes co-operation, neighborliness, tolerance and cohesive social relationships. In addition, it actively provides a socio-economic mix that provides for cross-subsidies and financial viability."


From Kampung Buah Pala and Kampung Tanjung Tokong in Penang to the Sentul heartland of Kampung Chubadak, Kampung Tanah Lapang, and Sentul Pasar, we see the ravenous appetite of redevelopment displacing thousands of citizens who are without the might of money.

In more than one instance, it has become political baggage leading to the fall of incumbents during elections. All this will not change without more imaginative models and policies on social and affordable housing. The existing bodies need more sensitivity and collaboration in dealing with urban redevelopment. Progress must come with a heart.


So far things do not look too good if inhumane scenes such as these taken at Kampung Tanah Lapang continue:

tlpg3Fellas, you don't spray 'ROBOH' on a house. No matter how stubborn the occupants are, you just don't. The act betrays how the various parties involved view these people.




What is it?


The lessons can be found right in the very streets where these structures are being torn down. Yesterday at the dusty lane of Kampung Sentul Pasar, while listening to Raja, we saw this:



See the hands. See how they tenderly intertwine.


A boy, Indian Malaysian, was leading an elderly man - so aged his back could not straighten - down the path. The man is a Chinese Malaysian. His legs were full of sores. Together they carried their packed meals.


Slowly. Ever so slowly, they walked.



The boy was leading grandpa home.



We have much to learn and to reconcile. SABM will be hosting a special forum on United Nations Year of Reconciliation on Saturday, Dec 5. Among the topics discussed will be urban poverty. You can view the details here. Do come.

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SAJ  - Human Kindness is Overflowing |2009-11-29 15:01:26
Dear Ambrose & Nanda,

What a beautiful piece!
Written with empathy and compassion.
You guys are true blue Anak Bangsa Malaysia.

Thanks a million
Raoul Yong |2009-11-29 20:27:35
A thought provoking piece.

The words preceding the last photograph really resonates...

I wouldn't be suprised if a similar photo is featured on National Geographic.

angel  - a sense of value |2009-11-29 22:50:43
Here is a fine display of right human relations....  the little kampong boy leading the decrepit old man gently by the hand and helping him to walk.We are being reminded to be decent human beings..   One Humanity. That we need to recognise a sense of value in each individual. That there is a dire need  to redress the gap between the rich and the poor in this country.Some super pictures here...thank you.
Siebel |2009-11-29 23:26:08
My eyes welled up reading this article.

These pictures tell more than a thousand words.

Folks in this village/suburb are still a close-knit lot. Children are taught filial piety and respect.

The boy is so cute...hope he has gone to school and being educated properly.

Why don't Anak Bangsa Malaysia set up an education fund for children from these poor family?

I would like to contribute on an ongoing basis.

An observer
Chandran Sekar  - Malaysia Boleh! |2009-11-30 11:47:57
Of course Malaysia can do better-the NEP that was to bring Malaysians out of poverty has enriched the rich and famous-Please see the proof.Hospitals are on the stock exchange and Courts have been moved so far away from where they were previously so that citizens are deprived from essential services and the rule of law.The end result is this...Thank You Mahathir and fellow appointed PMs-
Please see:-

anonymous-er |2009-11-30 13:13:29
You'll find that a lot of parents these days don't teach this basic value of "having a heart" to their children.

People are materialistic. People are selfish and they strive to get to the top, by any means.
Having a heart is just going to stop them from attaining all these. It slows them down.

If you look at the people around you, simple virtues like standing up in the bus/ MRT and giving your seat to the old/ pregnant/ young, is barely seen.
An old person who is trying to cross the road and nobody is there to help him/ her.

What has the nation become? We are more obsessed with chasing the latest phones, the latest fasion, the latest BMW/ Merc etc
But we have even failed to look after our own family.

I see parents who are selfish towards their children; sibiling who try to take advantage of each other, these basic caring attitudes are hardly found in your common household.

So how can a nation start having some empathy? A heart?
Miriam |2009-11-30 15:35:16


The lack of heart as they exercise their abusive power is only behind the shield of 1Malaysia. Heartless, cruel and cowardly. Let us look with compassion but look beyond to the larger numbers being alienated from the 1Malaysia scheme.
Jo Kukathas |2009-11-30 15:52:04
Dear Anak Bangsar Malaysia

We CAN do better.This article was very moving. Thanks for being a bridge.

jokersland |2009-11-30 22:40:38
My hearts bleed when I saw the young Indian boy at such a tender age can show how to be a caring and concern to the elders. I'm sure you will become a useful citizen when you have grown up.Don't give up through this difficult period because myself had gone through this before.All the best to you and may god bless you.
Anonymous |2009-11-30 22:51:17
$$$,Power and Politician are suckers.
The will suck dry even the poor.
Sentul Boy - USA |2009-12-01 09:37:37
Why is this happening? Who is to be blamed for such poverty? What happen to the Malaysian Government? My empathy to the little boy and Grandpa!
D Lim  - What is progress without civility & humanity? |2009-12-03 06:02:10
Indeed as in any where in the world, the poor is always voiceless and some even faceless. Why has despite all material progress Malaysia has made, that we persistently fail to address the needs of the poorest of the poor?
Social housing planning must be holistic. As pointed out in this article, these 'poor community' rely on each other.. they cannot afford childcare, they cannot afford maids, so to dig them out of the community and plonk them elsewhere not only disrupts their family lives and whatever little they have left. If only we have politicians who genuinely care for the rakyat irrespective of race and colour rather than use the rakyat for their own gains such heartwrenching stories and sights will be less. Thank you for giving a voice and a face to these people.
Anonymous |2009-12-04 14:48:13
The simple problem and fact that our country faces is the greed of politicians and the civil service. We need to make the stand "silently" to eradicate these mindless acts.
Thanks you SABM!
Anonymous |2009-12-04 21:02:56
bamboo  - they dont care about us..... |2009-12-06 16:38:19
it's really sad to see these pictures.
our country is blessed with natural disaters like earth quakes, typhoons, but then there are plenty of man made disasters.
lots of the country's wealth has gone into the pockets of the selected few. they have big mansions, big cars, private jets... courtesy of public money via negotiated contracts, APs, monopolies of privatised services. they dont care about us....
bamboo |2009-12-06 17:19:19
correction...our country is blessed without natural disasters....
Esther Yew |2009-12-07 00:36:20
I'm sure An observer meant he hope the little boy goes to a school for formal education. Looking at the photographs, I'm quite sure he's "properly" educated alright. Many school children are not properly educated at all in humanity, values and virtues even when they go to school. Couldn't stop crying seeing the photographs. Where are grandpa's family ?? What's happening to our society ???
peter |2009-12-11 18:20:21


Well this has been happening on an ongoing basis in different parts of the country. If we dont stand up and say enough is enough it will continue. Are we brave enough to do this or are we content to put in our two cents worth and then go back living in LA La land.Talk is cheap
a malaysian  - Still a long way to go |2010-01-30 06:41:22
That the individuals in the piece are being identified as "Chinese Malaysian" and "Indian Malaysian" makes an absolute mockery of this whole SABM!

Until we are able to see ourselves and each other as MALAYSIANS first and everything else a distant second, things will NOT change.
straits-mongrel |2010-01-30 13:43:00
a malaysian,

i don't see a problem with ethnicity. Plurality is cool. i see a problem with racism.

Huge difference between the two.
Low Chee Leong |2010-04-26 10:19:58
wat v Rakyat get after 53 years ?
the richest r d politicians!
l c wong |2011-02-23 19:06:57
possible to come together and purchase agric land - not only address issues above but attend to self sufficient lifestyle for ALL like minded and like hearted. yes
Last Updated on Sunday, 29 November 2009 15:23

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