Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Disabled: Come down! MPS president: Come up!

Disabled: Come down! MPS president: Come up!
Andrew Ong (Malaysiakini)
Jan 10, 07 5:14pm

About 30 disabled people, some wheelchair-bound, waited in vain for nearly an hour outside the Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) building to meet council president Zainal Abidin Azim today.

They wanted to submit a memorandum to Zainal in the lobby but he insisted that they come up to his office on the ninth floor.

The group refused and waited from 11am to nearly noon but the president did not show up.

Led by Independent Living and Training Centre (ITLS) secretary Gurdip Kaur, they chanted slogans such as ‘MPS oppresses the disabled’ and ‘MPS does not understand the disabled’.

They wanted to meet Zainal to air their grievances over an incident last Friday where council officers had allegedly ill-treated disabled petty trader Murugan Rajoo, 36.

After several rounds of negotiations with Zainal’s aide, Murugan’s lawyer N Surendran told the group that there was a stalemate and there will be no meeting with the council president.

Speaking to reporters later, Surendran said he was disappointed that Zainal did not come down to meet the group.

“He (Zainal) made the ridiculous suggestion of having these people go up to see him. This shows the core problem that council officers, including the president, are insensitive to the needs of the disabled,” he said.

Among the protestors was former TV3 personality Ras Adiba Radzi (right), who has been confined to a wheelchair after a mishap.

Special committees

Anthony Thanasayan, a wheelchair-bound activist, said Zainal’s action this morning rendered MPS’ drive to make the district more disabled friendly meaningless.

“There is no point in making ramps (for us) on the outside, but inside (the council) their (negative) attitude towards the disabled is still the same. Maybe he (Zainal) would understand when he becomes disabled,” he added.

Thanasayan also urged all local authorities to form special committees that includes disabled groups to look into the needs of the disabled and the elderly.

Last Thursday, Murugan (centre) had his motorcycle-cum-stall seized by MPS officers for trading without a licence and was left stranded by the roadside.

Subsequently he and several ILTS members tried to reclaim his possessions at the MPS Rawang branch.

Following this, Murugan and his friends claimed they were illegally confined by MPS officers for an hour while he was not allowed to use the toilet and forced to urinate in his pants, in front of others.

MPS councillor MB Raja returned Murugan his possessions later that evening. Murugan maintains that he had tried in vain to apply for a trading licence for the past three years but became a petty trader to support his wife and four children.

According to Surendran, illegal confinement is a criminal offence under Section 340 of the Penal Code.

Under investigation

Meanwhile, Zainal told a press conference this afternoon that the incident is being investigated by the police and MPS.

Asked if the officers involved are still on active duty, he said: “I told (the enforcement director), if he had investigated and found a breach in procedure, he has to take action. If not, they (the officers) can continue.”

As to why he did not meet the group at the lobby and settle the matter amicably, Zainal said the building is accessible for the group and the meeting room is more conducive to hold discussions.

“In the first place, they wanted to see me. Like now you (reporters) want to interview me, I don’t have to go to the Bernama (office) right?

“Even if you are disabled, you must be sincere. If you want to give a genuine memorandum, you can come. You don’t have to bring lawyers or posters, that is if you genuinely want to address an issue,” he added.

Asked if he was accusing the group of being insincere, he replied: “I’m not saying that. You (journalists) have to observe yourself.”

(MADPET was part of this action and was represented by Mr N. Surendran)

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