50 Posts to Merdeka
Article No 36
By Ahirudin Attan
[note: Please click on the link above to follow the blogathon trail created by Nizam Bashir. I am tagging Marina Mahathir for No 35 and thanking Jeff Ooi for tagging me].
I am writing this from the porch of my home deep in the heart of Puchong, closer to Putrajaya than to Kuala Lumpur. The night is still, which is why I am outdoors, chasing a deadline on a Merdeka blogathon. In this part of enchanting Malaysia, a wind is undesirable because it would carry with it the great pong from a landfill a few miles away.
I have never visited the landfill and none of the neighbours I spoke to, or the couple I know at nearby Equine Park, or those kids who work at the new Jusco shopping mall opposite the Pasar Borong Sri Kembangan have seen it, either.
But we don't need to see the landfill to know it's there because we can all smell it.
The smell is most nauseating after the rain. If you have been to the men's in a pub at the end of a night after a beer-drinking contest that started around tea time, then you'd get a whiff of what I mean by nauseating. I was in one two years ago. The entire toilet floor and some parts of the wall were filled with vomit. I almost threw up myself.
The stench has taught a valuable lesson about house-buying. Whenever someone asks for my advice on buying a house, I would say: "Use your nose."
But it has also taught me about the positive spirit of my fellow Malaysians. The other day, at the parking lot of the local MacDonalds, my kids and I were greeted by one of the worst nasal attacks we've ever had since we moved here. My three-year old, nose wrinkled, utttered "kuat!". A guy with his two kids, nose pegged in between thumb and index finger, smiled at us. "Ello, feetty bad, uh." We are now feety good friends.
This afternoon, at the gym in Bangsar, Raymond Hon, who retired from the music industry some years back, said hello to me. "You are the writer, right? You live in Puchong".
We talked about the environment, the killing of the hills and the trees, crooked property developers, and the great stench from landfills.
In short, about the declining quality of life in this beautiful country of ours.
Raymond dreams of establishing a movement, a non-governmental organisation driven by teens, that will defend the environment for the future of these kids. "Why do I want to involve school kids? Because nobody seems to want to listen to us adults anymore. Maybe the government and those developers will listen to the kids. "
Most of us are still sleeping while our environment is dying around us. Or we close an eye. We no longer listen, as Raymond says. We have forgotten to wake up and smell the flower because we have forgotten what a flower is.
Like me, thousands of people who now live in my part of Puchong had not smelled anything fishy when the developers sold us our houses. I am not sure if there'll ever be a recourse for us but if there was one, I am sure it will take too long before we see any kind of compensation.
You may say I'm being pessimistic but the fact is we did drag our developer to the Tribunal in 2005 to demand compensation for various defects to the house structure, and we have lived to regret that action. The Tribunal awarded us a small amount (but still three times what the developers had offered to pay us initially) but we have not been paid a single sen.
The last time we called to ask for the payment, we were told: "You should have accepted our offer, not take us to the Tribunal."
In this country, nearly 50 years after Merdeka, stench does not come just from landfills. To me it means we have a long way to go.