COMMENT | For the past 23 years in old town Petaling Jaya, Siti Rahayu, 63, can be seen early morning till late evening every day, rain or shine, pushing an old bicycle with an attached side-cart.
This wizened woman scours the rubbish bins of the Old Town area of PJ all day long for the voluminous and careless discards of our voracious consumer society.
Thrice a day, she slowly wends her way home to two rented rooms in the Kawasan Melayu, her cart weighed down - a fridge, a rusted bicycle, a washing-machine precariously perched on a high stack of cardboard and paper - the sides of the cart festooned with plastic containers.
A couple of days ago, Cik Siti was sitting on a high curb-stone, eating her lunch of rice and a salted egg.
Prompted by what Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said about Malays being lazy, I struck a conversation with her because she gave the lie to the good Doc’s assertion of the malaise of Malays.
At home, she has an adult son who is content not to slave at a job; he just gets pocket-money and dinner from mum.
She said another son had asked her to live with him. “I’m used to working. Go there, just sit, watch TV – boring. Do nothing, the mind will go. As long as I can work…”
Asked for her response to Mahathir’s portrayal of her race, she said: "Cannot say race. It’s the individual. Every race got hardworking people, got lazy people. See who it is.”
Siti and her lay-about son illustrate that – both Malays, sharing similar genes, a polar-different response to life.
To substantiate his charge of Malay indolence, Mahathir recounted an occasion when he was PM, asking why his staff were leaving well before 4pm, and being told it was to avoid the jam.
Did he lay down the law after that? Or did it become one of the many inconvenient laws, rules and regulations that Malaysians ignore daily when there is lax enforcement which is (delete where inappropriate) often/regularly/rarely/when there is a financial settlement/during our many public holidays?
Mahathir introduced the clock-in system, possibly in response to the skiving off early of civil servants...