Friday, October 22, 2010

Disabled people in Malaysia applaud budget allocations

From The Star in Malaysia:

Malaysians were glued to their television and radio sets Oct. 15, listening to the Budget 2011 speech by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in Parliament.

Chong Tuck Meng, 50, from Bentong, Pahang, was one of them.

“I am pleased to note that the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry has been allocated RM1.2bil in aid, of which RM218mil will be used to assist some 80,000 disabled individuals,” says Chong.

“However, it was not stipulated how the money would be used to help them,” he adds, pointing out that previous programmes organised by the Welfare Department had not done much to improve the quality of life of the handicapped.

Chong, who was paralysed from the neck down following an accident 30 years ago, is now adviser of Perwira K9, an NGO which he founded. It has about 700 members with spinal injuries.

Chong also recalls a pre-Budget meeting called by the ministry about six months ago.

“There were too many special focus groups involved and everyone seemed to be all over the place. There wasn’t enough time for real discussion. Some of the disabled groups that turned up didn’t seem to know what they wanted.”

Now that the ministry has been given a special allocation, Chong feels that minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil should call for another meeting to fine-tune what is really important.

“The ministry should also select NGOs with the people’s interest at heart and work closely with them to achieve the PM’s goals,” says Chong.

Petaling Jaya resident Stanislaus Anthony, 61, was disappointed that the disabled did not get any increment for their present allowance of RM300.

“I was hoping that the PM would give all disabled Malaysians – whether blind, Deaf or in a wheelchair – a monthly allowance of RM500 across the board,” he says.

“It’s getting harder and harder to be a disabled person in Malaysia these days when employers don’t want to hire you because you are handicapped or you just can’t get out of the house because of the lack of public transport and accessibility,” Stanislaus laments.

“It is high time the authorities, whose job it is to help the handicapped, came down to our level to see what our problems are.

“As an individual who does his part to help other disabled people, I still have trouble getting wheelchairs for the poor.

“Just last week, a physically handicapped friend of mine was turned down financial aid because he had pay TV and a refrigerator.

“We still have hospitals like Universiti Malaya Medical Centre which treats you for free as an outpatient because of your disability card. But it ignores your card and charges you the sky if you get admitted. Many of the supposedly free medication for the disabled are often out of stock or not covered by the hospital.”

Stanislaus has been disabled since 1988. Now he uses a walking stick and a wheelchair because he has difficulty walking.

For Yam Tong Woo, 57, from Sungai Buloh, Selangor, who suddenly lost his sight two years ago following a bacterial infection, the recent Budget brought bitter-sweet news.

“The good news is the abolishment of sales tax on mobile phones and the waiver of import and sales tax on broadband equipment,” he writes via e-mail.

“The blind will be better able to use technology to help them find jobs and make new friends.

“However, many of the assistive and adaptive technology to help the blind get online are costly and out of reach unless the Government creates a subsidy for them.

“Broadband and telecommunications service-providers should be encouraged to reduce their costs to make their services affordable for blind Malaysians,” added Yam, a former automotive engineer.