Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Malaysiakini: Going 'Madd' over discrimination

Going 'Madd' over discrimination
Andrew Ong
Jan 17, 07 3:10pm

Spurred by recent events, a new coalition has been formed with the aim of ending discrimination against the disabled community.

Comprising 12 groups, the Malaysian Coalition Against Discrimination of the Disabled or Madd wants the government to facilitate anti-discrimination and equal opportunity laws.

“Madd was formed due to the realisation among NGOs and activists that there is a complete lack of sensitivity on the part of the authorities towards the needs of the disabled,” the coalition’s legal advisor N Surendran told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur today.

The most recent incident which had caused an outrage was the alleged mistreatment of 36-year-old petty trader and father of four Murugan Rajoo by Selayang Municipal Council (MPS) officers.

MPS officers had seized his possessions for trading without a license on Jan 5. He and several disabled activists were later allegedly confined for an hour at the MPS Rawang branch when they attempted to reclaim the possessions.

Last Monday, several disabled groups tried to submit a memorandum of protest on the matter to MPS president Zainal Abidin Azim but the latter had insisted that they come up to see him on the ninth floor.

He later told reporters that his enforcement department and the police are investigating the allegations and would make an official statement on the matter in due time.

“The MPS president was neither apologetic nor remorseful. And even after police reports were lodged, no statements have been recorded (from Murugan and his friends),” Surendran said.

Attitude change

Anthony Thanasayan, a wheelchair-bound activist and newspaper columnist, said the lack of action taken against MPS showed that the government consented to the council’s treatment of the disabled.

“The authorities should be protecting us and be approachable. Instead, we are subject to their (alleged) abuse just because we are disabled,” he said.

Thanasayan said the key to making society more inclusive for the disabled community lied within the attitude of the authorities.

“You (the authorities) can’t just provide disabled friendly facilities when your attitude is hostile towards us [...] We held a big showcase of the Fespic Games (2006) but the authorities do not show support for their local disabled groups,” he added.

Madd also demanded that the government initiate a special commission to look into the laws and other issues deemed discriminatory to the disabled.

The coalition also called for the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act similar to those found in India and Australia.

Asked on the next course of action for the coalition, Thanasayan said the demands have been made out and the ball was now in the government’s court.

(MADPET is a member of Malaysian Coalition Against Discrimination of the Disabled (MADD))

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