save malaysia!

No country for old or poor people By Erna Mahyuni

Publish date: Wed, 22 Mar 2023, 11:48 AM

MARCH 22 — I have often advocated the stripping of cash and privileges from politicians for a day so they can properly understand the weight of poverty.

Now I'm beginning to think that maybe we should strap them down to wheelchairs instead and make them get around in the Klang Valley without a car or driver.

The latest discourse online is that people are complaining too much about the distance to walk to certain new MRT stations.

“This is why Malaysians are obese. Tak jauh sangat pun (It's not that far).”

I remember years ago when I was recovering from illness but still had to get around, when Grab wasn't yet a thing.

The terror I felt when my knees suddenly buckled while going up the LRT stairs is something still vivid in my memory.

Being in my 20s and having a ridiculously high pain tolerance got me through that time but what would it be like for someone old or disabled?

I read sometimes of stories where disabled people are forced to crawl along some distance because their wheelchairs are not allowed ― such as up the ramp of an airplane ― the excuse given being that the staff were “not allowed to assist.”

This lack of compassion for the challenges of the disabled is everywhere. What mystifies me the most is the assumption, in Malaysia, that being issued a disabled card confers on you special privileges.

Few people qualify for those cards. They do not confer any special benefit in most cases except for, perhaps, public transport discounts.

What mystifies me now is the new chairman of MARA is saying the government should look into building schools... for the rich.

MARA was created to empower Bumiputeras and improve their living standards, by giving them opportunities in both education and wealth creation.

Making it cater to the rich goes against the agency's ethos.

I am not exactly surprised, however, as MARA schools, formerly targeted at bright students who needed a leg up, now reek of elitism.

Even the monied are sending their kids to MRSM for the sake of building connections as well as assured higher quality of facilities and teaching staff.

Students in poorer communities struggle with access to education, we also have a dearth of teachers for important subjects such as English, but sure let's have MARA build schools for rich people.

I feel the government needs to do more to increase revenue but making special schools for the higher income bracket is not it.

What is also irksome is the thinking among way too many economists that as there are more lower income people than rich people, we need to find ways to get them to pay more tax.

“We need GST to increase government revenue!” or so these ghouls bleat.

I need them to kneel at the graves of the small business owners who died by suicide from the mental and financial stress the hasty implementation of the last GST attempt.

There are ways to claw back revenue ― reduce the exorbitant salaries of GLC CEOs for one, or add taxes to the higher income brackets by means of taxing inheritances and offshore investments.

Instead, like previous administrations, this one is again too keen to protect the interests of the rich and powerful while exhorting the rich to become entrepreneurs and use their EPF money for loans.

Thinking about how the current government feels more like a Perikatan Lite, what with its pandering to big business and the elite, while also catering to the conservative set who will not vote for Pakatan Harapan anyhow, is depressing enough to put me in a long funk.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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