Seeking housing redress after son’s tragic end

It is crucial that housing authorities pay close attention to safety and maintenance

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Photo: Bassam Khawaja 2019/srpoverty.org

No adoring mother would want to suffer the heart-wrenching trauma of S Kasthuribal, who lost her son in a most tragic manner.

Her beloved teenage son died of head injuries after being hit by a chair flung from the 21st floor of Seri Pantai flats in Pantai Dalam, Kuala Lumpur, while they were walking past, three years ago.

Her suffering is clearly not alleviated by the fact that the incident, which was reclassified by police as murder, left the family clueless about who caused the death of 15-year-old S Sathiswaran.

Seeking justice for her son’s tragic death, Kasthurabal has decided to sue Kuala Lumpur City Hall for RM1m for what she considers as its negligence in ensuring the safety and cleanliness of the people’s housing project (PPR).

No amount of money can bring Sathiswaran back to life. That is why Kasthurabal’s lawyers insisted that the legal action was taken primarily to take the authorities to task for their alleged negligence in the proper maintenance of the housing project. It is hoped, they added, that no one else would have to suffer the same fate as Sathiswaran owing to the supposed dereliction.

Although safety nets were installed to reduce risks from items thrown from the upper floors, apparently this was not the case for all low-cost flats in the city.

The tragedy should, therefore, raise a red flag to the housing authorities to address the nagging issues of comfort, a conducive living environment, safety and maintenance that affects residents of other low-cost housing projects as well.

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin announced last February a policy reform for the people’s housing project scheme, which is now renamed Rumah Malaysia. The reform includes the improvement of the built-up area of each flat from about 700 sq ft to at least 900 sq ft, as well as a nationwide rental rate adjustment.

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She added that 11 Rumah Malaysia projects are in the pipeline this year to provide housing for the poor and lower-income groups.

While we welcome this new development, it is crucial that the housing authorities pay much attention to safety and maintenance. For instance, the wire netting installed in certain people’s housing projects should be made compulsory for the safety of the occupants and visitors to all low-cost flats in order to prevent unwanted items and garbage from being hurled to the ground, possibly harming people in the vicinity.

The authorities should also place CCTV in strategic places to prevent, say, vandalism of elevators, which seems to be a common problem in many of these flats.

Sufficient recreational facilities and a playground also be an important part of providing a conducive environment for healthy social activities among the residents.

It is here that residents associations with an inclusive outlook can play a vital role in helping to educate residents of the importance of helping to keep the environment clean, safe and comfortable.

To be sure, the less fortunate in society also deserve homes that are as liveable and safe as possible.

Let not Sathiswaran’s death be in vain. – The Malaysian Insight

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