MP SPEAKS | The Malay urban poor

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

Modified 30 Jun 2020, 3:13 am

MP SPEAKS | I recently visited a family in Setiawangsa, my constituency. They live in a People’s Housing Project (PPR) flat. Sixteen of them live in a 750-square-foot unit: The parents, children and grandchildren.

The head of the family - I’ll call him Pak Dollah - apologised when my team and I sat down with them on the floor of their living room. That’s where most of their children and grandchildren sleep every day, so there was no room for furniture.

Since the 1980s, Pak Dollah had worked in a prestigious hotel, serving faithfully. He could take back as much as RM3,000 in salary and allowances.

But with the movement control order (MCO) and the hotel industry in doldrums, this has shrunk to his basic pay of RM1,300. And he considers himself lucky to still have a job.

“Alhamdulillah, the hotel union is strong. It’s difficult for the hotel to lay people off.”

Dollah has tried to sell cakes on a small scale since the MCO. This makes him about RM20 a day.

His wife is looking for work but it’s hard at her age. One of his daughters was abandoned by her husband and she works in a nearby pharmacy.

Another child is studying early childhood education at a college. But it’s hard keeping his sons in education after they finished SPM, he tells me.

The price of chicken has gone up. Fish has become rare in their diets. Dollah recently quarrelled with a TNB meter reader over how high his electricity bill had gone up. They still have power though: he is paying the sum in instalments...

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