Thursday, January 18, 2007

Have a heart for the disabled, KLCC told (Malaysiakini)

Have a heart for the disabled, KLCC told
Andrew Ong
Jan 18, 07 11:40am

Mohd Firdaus Azizan suffers from cerebral palsy. The condition prevents the 24-year-old from being able to feed, dress or clean himself.

He suffers from speech impediment and cannot use his limbs. He has limited use of his fingers, but still manages to manuever a motorised wheelchair.

Despite this, Firdaus is determined to live as independently as possible.

The youth sells souvenir items such as key-chains and postcards along the pedestrian tunnel linking the KLCC Putra LRT station and Suria KLCC shopping complex.

"I enjoy selling these things and making an honest living," said Firdaus with the help of an interpreter during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

But now, his livelihood is at stake because KLCC Urus Harta managing director Mustafa Awang said that 'beggars' along the tunnel portray a negative image about Malaysia.

KLCC Urus Harta took over the tunnel from Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) on Jan 1 and has given its ‘squatters’ till Jan 18 to vacate.

Failing which, Mustafa reportedly warned that enforcement officers from the DBKL and Welfare Services Department would be summoned to remove them.

'Be proud of him'

Are petty traders with physical and mental disabilities seen as ‘damaging’ to the country’s reputation?

This was the question raised at the press conference called by the newly formed Malaysians Against Discrimination of the Disabled (Madd) coalition.

“Being able to sell things gives Firdaus some purpose and joy in his life,” said the coalition’s legal adviser N Surendran (right).

While acknowledging that KLCC has full rights over the tunnel, he said the company could have handled the situation better.

“We would think that KLCC would use their discretion and allow them to continue trading, or at least propose an alternative for them to earn a living,” he added.

KLCC should help the disabled as part of their corporate social responsibility, stressed the lawyer.

Meanwhile, wheelchair-bound activist Anthony Thanasayan also expressed disappointment over the issue.

“Why should we see people like Firdaus as a shame to the country? KLCC should be proud of him,” he told the press conference.

He said inaccessibility of public transport and buildings hinder many talented disabled people from seeking meaningful employment.

Contacted today, Mustafa declined to comment on the criticisms. He referred malaysiakini to a public relations officer who could not offer immediate comments.

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