An open letter to YB Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang.
Dear YB Lim,
On behalf of the blind in Penang, allow me to express our heartiest congratulations to you on your installation as our new chief minister. Dare we, the blind and other handicapped people of Penang look forward to a better life under the new state government of Penang where are true needs would be better attended to?
Please understand that caring for the blind is more than just making annual donations to the St. Nicholas Home for the Blind because the bulk of the blind (99.999 percent.) live outside of St. Nicholas and receive no help at all.
Apart from the meagre welfare allowance from the federal government which is not even sufficient to meet a quarter of their daily needs, they receive no help, no ang pow. No donations, no nothing. Allow us to present the following reasonable requests for the kind consideration of our new state government:
1. An additional welfare allowance of RM300 to all blind citizens born or residing in Penang who live on their own and who are unemployed. This allowance together with the federal allowance of RM300 will help all blind people and make it easier for them to make ends meet.
As you probably are unaware, 50 years after independence, the plight of the blind has not improved one iota both in terms of employment opportunities and in terms of their welfare. The bulk of the blind today have no steady income and the majority subsist on their meagre federal allowance. There are some who do not even have this.
2. Provide more employment opportunities both in the state government and in the various town councils. Erect more stalls so that the blind, with the help of their families, can earn a decent living. If I'm not mistaken, under the previous state government, only a few blind people were employed in the Penang Municipal Council and none at all in the state government.
3. To lighten their burden, the blind and the handicapped should be exempted from assessment rates. After all, if the previous council could spend millions of dollars on flowers and overseas trips, is it to much to ask for this small concession?
4. Free public transport for the handicap. In 1964, when the late CY Choy was the elected mayor of Penang, he wasted no time in granting free public transport for the blind on city council buses but alas, this privilege was ruthlessly taken away by none other than Koh Tsu Koon, your predecessor.
Free public transport for the blind is an international norm and Malaysia has the dubious distinction of being the only country where the blind have to pay. It wouldn't matter so much if the employment opportunities are good here. In Thailand and Singapore and virtually the world at large, even private companies give free bus transport for the blind - and ungrudgingly mind you. Does this not speak volumes for Malaysia being a unncaring society?
5. Get the various town councils to allocate funds to assist the blind and other handicapped people in the purchase of equipment which are specific to their needs such as braillers for the blind and wheel chairs for the the disabled. This is the practice in the developed West and Penang should follow suit.
Let Penang show the way so that the other states may emulate your good example and make the blind and handicapped feel that they, too, have a place under the malaysian sun. We have been hoping and praying for this day for a long time and may this new era bring hope to the mostmarginalised of the marginalised.
Show that you really care unlike the previous state government which only seemed to care for the wealthy and had little time for the downtrodden. We wish you well in your new endeavours.