Malaysia Now and Then: Life in a low-cost flat

6 May 2019 / Karim Raslan

Team Ceritalah first met Mala, a 50-year-old resident of the Kota Damansara PPR (government-built, low-cost flats) exactly one year ago. She was – and still is – pragmatic, proactive and positive.

While there’s still some of her fiery persona left, she seems slightly more fatigued and exasperated nowadays: “Things are okay, my grandkids are my strength.”

Previously, we learnt that one of her sons had passed away due to illness and the other was serving jail-time.

Unsurprisingly, Mala has had to stop her murukku business. The RM30 shop rental was also getting too expensive. For the past year, she’s been relying – almost exclusively – on welfare payments and the RM150 her daughter gives her every month.

However, Mala is determined to reopen her shop. She recently started work as a security guard at her PPR in order to make ends meet and hopefully save enough money to carry out her plan.

“I am going to open the shop again after this. I want to work for three months to make the payment.”

Thankfully, according to Mala, her monthly grocery bill still amounts to around RM250. Moreover, her welfare payments have increased from RM175 a year ago to RM250.

“For me, if I get welfare, it’s okay.”

That being said, she argues that many other PPR residents are feeling the pinch slightly more compared with last year.

“They always scold Pakatan Harapan for not providing any aid, compared with the BR1M (1Malaysia People’s Aid) that was provided by the former government.”

When asked about the state of affairs in the PPR compared with a year ago, Mala sighs.

“Well, my ceiling is still leaking from last year. Look at that, I’m scared it will collapse. We can't do anything about it.”

Health is also still a worry in the flats, with an uptick of dengue cases as a result of rubbish (allegedly) only being collected once a month.

Moreover, due to the bins always being full, residents have resorted to flinging trash and even unwanted furniture over their balconies – extremely dangerous for those walking around in the compound.

Drugs are also an on-going concern.

“There is still a lot of drug issues here. I don't understand why no one is addressing it. We can see them everywhere.

“If they find out that we report them (to the police), they will beat us.”

However, Mala does admit that there has been some progress. For instance, Perumahan & Hartanah Selangor Sdn Bhd (PHSSB), which manages the PPR, have replaced all the broken and missing railings along the upper-floor corridors.

The government has also been cracking down on the PPR subletting issue. Elected representatives (such as Kota Damansara assemblyman Shatiri Mansor) visit frequently.

“He comes every Thursday. Everyone can see him. Even until at night. He is okay,” says Mala.

That being said, there are some issues which need to be addressed urgently. Predictably, all the issues Mala raised were for others, not herself.

“They need to fix the lift. Even I am scared of taking it now. The lift at block B has jammed many times.”

She also highlights the recent spate of apparent kidnappings at a nearby school.

“I also hope that the school can improve its security.

“Three children have gone missing yesterday. When a resident makes a report, they (the authorities) say it has not reached (that is, the children have not been missing for more than) 24 hours yet.

“Why do you need to wait for 24 hours? I told them that the children can be naughty, but they have not come home since last night.

“My grandkids are my strength.”

Those words speak volumes.

As Mala says, it has only been one year, but there is still so much to do.