Since my visit first visit to Kampung Rimba Jaya, I have taken too long a time to write down the conversations I had with several of the residents there. The delay is not due to any reasons but that I really do not know how to; I do not want to paint the wrong picture.
My aim here is to highlight the predicament of many low-income Malaysians living within the boundaries of the Klang Valley, and why they chose to live in a 'squatter' colony.
InsyAllah, I will try to keep the transcript true to the conversations which was transacted in Malay. For reasons obvious, the names given here are not their true names and the introduction formalities are not included here.
cakapaje: How long have you been living here?
Azid: I've been here for 6 years. But pakcik Alang here have been here for 19 years!
Hazim: That makes me one of the longest then as I have been here close to 30!
cakapaje: "Do you think the authorities will come today (to demolish the houses)?"
Hazim: "I don't know, but I do not think so. Had they wanted to, they would have arrived early in the morning. Besides, today being Friday, they too would need to go for Jumaat Prayers."
Azid: "Does not matter whether they come today or not, but we should all be packing. I would not want the villagers to be caught off guard and later blame you (Hazim) for thinking you've mislead them."
Hazim: "I have not! I have told them the truth and the fact that my house is being dismantled even now should be the cue for them to follow suit."
As Azid and Hazim got into a small quarrel, my eyes caught the sight of an old man walking very slowly some 200 meters away. He was walking neither towards nor away from us, but moving around some small bushes and his head slightly bent and looking at the ground as though he was searching for something. I pointed a finger towards the old man and forced a question to Azid, cutting their quarrel short.
Azid replied that the old man is known as Pak Suhaimi. He lives with his son, but forages the ground of Kampung Rimba Jaya looking for any discarded objects which he can sell off - bottles, tins, old boxes, in fact any recyclable items he can find. The meager ringgit he gets, he contributes to the household needs; his son works as a lorry attendant, has 5 children and his wife not working. With their relocation, the old man may no longer be able to contribute to the family.
At 80, he should not have to!
Another man walked towards us and introduced himself to me as Zain. He lives 2 lots away and work as a driver and has this to add to the conversation:
"The government said I could take a housing loan. I asked them back 'what loan?'. I'm already 55 and earning about RM500 a month, which bank will consider me?"
"So, where will you go to?" cakapaje quipped in.
"Oh! To (some kampung which I could not catch the name)", he quickly replied.
"What's the rental there?" asked Azid.
"RM600! A bloody RM600 when I earn RM500!" he replied with his voice slightly raised.
The shock look on my face must be apparent as he added "2 of my sons are already working and they chip in what they can. But they already have their own family, and we do not want to burden them" glancing back at his house where his wife and 16year old daughter are standing at the door.
I was trying to make sense of everything as this is the first time I face a situation like this. Though there were many childhood schoolmates who lived in squatter colonies, it, never became part of our conversation. What does one need to do? How can one even begin offering assistance when one does not even understand the problems these people face?
I turn my body towards Zain and boldly asked him a question, half expecting a stern reply or a balking "Why did you not move out earlier when the first order of eviction was given?"
Instead of Zain, it was Azid who answered "we did not want to because we were told by the village headman that this is pioneer land - tanah teroka. By that, it means we will be given the title to this land".
I nodded my head, but my nods must have been unconvincing.
"I was living in Gombak and was in the Used Car business. Then the recession came in 1997-98, and the business went down the drain. In 2000, I was able to sell off my house and with some cash there, I opened a Big Bike Service center on the main street here. Later, I bought a piece of land in this kampung and built a small house for RM30,000 - with the assurance from the village headman regarding the land title - which I could not have done anywhere" Azid said.
"Why didn't you buy a proper house?" asked Zain.
"My business was still new", said Azid. "Besides, like many of us here with a blacklisted credit rating, you just can't get a loan for anything, anywhere! Thus, this was the only choice I had".
Adli, who was sitting quietly all this while, suddenly chipped in. "To your earlier question" he said, "The Member of Parliament then told us that we will be given sufficient time to move to those new low-cost apartments (pointing towards the direction of some 3 blocks of high rise buildings). But those apartments are only about 90% completed and still without their Certificate of Fitness, how can we - those who qualified - move in?".
"Adli, you seem to have forgotten" Zain cuts in, "after a fracas with the authorities 2 years back, our case was brought into the courts. Then, the judge asked the local authorities 'why are they intervening in a dispute between the developer (a private party) and the residents? This is a private dispute between these 2 parties. And should not the authorities (including the Member of Parliament) be intervening on behalf of the people instead of against them?'".
"We won the case then," Zaid added "but lost it in an appeal. We counter-appealed. But lost it last week and are given a week's notice to move out or face eviction. How can we find accommodations within 7 days? Could they not have given us a little bit more time, especially some of the children here will be facing their SRP and year-end school examinations? And the Indian resident too, they will be or should be celebrating their Deepavali; have the authorities no heart at all?".
It was then approximately 12 noon then. Since there were no signs of the enforcement officers, I took beg of leave. Still, I could not help myself asking a final question, "These zincs and planks you've dismantled, what are you going to do with them?"
"Some of us will try to use it anyway we can for our new homes" Zain replied.
"You mark my words! Most, will be sold off for scrap. But its better that than having them demolished!" added Azid.
With that I got into my car and drove off and called Dr. L, and later the local Lajnah Kebajikan. After that, I made a mental note of the problems the residents of Kampung Rimba Jaya, and in probability most of the squatter colonies:
* Low household income force them to find alternative housing.
* Some do not qualify for a loan due to bad credit rating.
* The promised housing by the local authorities are not yet completed.
* The land promise was reneged by the local authorities.
Kindly refer to links below for more articles on Kampung Rimba Jaya:
DPP Bukit Katil
Malaysiakini.tv - Fracas at the Temple
Rasuah Semakin Parah - 4 video reports
The Star Online: Video