…dumped when they are in need with nothing else to give

by GAN PEI LING and LOH FOON FONG © The Star 22 May 2017

PETALING JAYA: Kak Tijah* spent her entire retirement savings on her son’s wedding. When she fell ill, she was penniless. The son – and his wife – abandoned the older woman.

Susan* lent her life savings to her eldest child for business. She fell ill and was left in the hospital with no one to pay the bill.

These are just two of the many heartbreaking cases public hospitals have to deal with when family members refuse to take their now bedridden parents home.

“Some children genuinely cannot afford it but some are just irresponsible, and siblings push the responsibility to one another,” said a source from a public hospital.

The source said the hospital’s social work department has to deal with at least two such cases of unclaimed Malaysian patients every week.

Unclaimed foreign patients are dealt with by the hospital’s public relations department.

The source added that it is important for ready-to-be-discharged patients, especially those in emergency wards, to make way for new patients who need the beds more.

“If a Malaysian patient is sent in by a member of the public, and the doctors or nurses notice that nobody comes to visit them, the Social Welfare Department will try to locate their family members.

“If they have no documents, we will get help from the National Registration Department.

“If the family members cannot be traced or are not responsive, we’ll try to find friends, or a nursing home as a last resort,” the source said.

The abandoned are of any age – the youngest are babies and the oldest are in their 70s.

Most common cases are senior citizens in their 60s, who have medical conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s or physical disabilities due to accidents, stroke or other serious illnesses.

“Although they are ready to be discharged from hospital, most could still be physically or mentally ill, requiring extra care at home and periodic visits to the hospital.

“When they aren’t properly taken care of at home, they get sent back to the hospitals earlier than their scheduled appointments,” the source explained.

In such cases, the hospital’s social workers will try to counsel the family members to take better care of the patients and check if there are any issues at home.

However, if nobody comes forward to claim the patients, they will be sent to public or private nursing homes.

“The Welfare Department has a home for the end-life stage at Kuala Kubu Baru, but it is usually full.

“There are three to four charity homes we can send them to but these are always full too,” the source said.

(* not their real names)

Seven-year-old wonder kid

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 8 May 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: She could not hold a pencil and does not like wri­ting much.

Yet, Madhu Barghavi Vijaya­ku­mar has written her first children’s book at the age of seven.

Diagnosed with autism two years ago, the girl has become an inspiration for families with autistic children.

The launch of her 24-page book titled The Golden Parrot and the Magic Teapot attracted almost a full house at the auditorium of the National Museum yesterday.

A nervous Barghavi read out on stage one of her two short stories in the book, accompanied by her mother Jegadeswari Krishnan.

“It’s amazing she has come this far, a girl who earlier didn’t want to read and write or hold a pencil,” said her personal tutor Mahalet­chumi Tavamany, 37.

Just three years ago, Barghavi had poor motor skills and Mahalet­chumi had to train her to work with clay, marbles and play dough to strengthen her grip.

“Even now, she still doesn’t like writing that much.

“She prefers activities like liste­ning to people read books,” said the special education teacher.

Mahaletchumi has been spen­ding an hour to tutor Barghavi weekly since 2014.

Jegadeswari said the idea of the first story about the golden parrot in the book came to Barghavi last year when her school teacher gave her an empty booklet to write a story.

“The booklet only had illustrations as she hates writing but she repeated the story to me a few times so I encouraged her to write it,” she said.

“It took her a few weeks and immediately after that, she came up with the second story on the magic teapot.”

Jegadeswari, who wanted to nurture the author in her daughter, then found a family who offered to sponsor the publication cost.

Priced at RM28.90 and published by Rakyat Media Industries, proceeds from the book sale will go to non-profit organisation Love Au­tism Society of Malaysia (Per­sama).

Persama patron Tan Sri Dr M. Kayveas, Persama founder Thila Laxshman, and director of a film on autism Redha, Tunku Mona Riza were also present yesterday.

“Don’t mould your child. What I did was accepting her as she was and try to encourage and empower her in the face of adver­sity.

“I don’t see raising her as a challenge but an experience.

“I didn’t try to change anything in her and she has grown on her own,” Jegadeswari said.

Going for safer roads and steady loads

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 29 April 2017

BENTONG: The Government will go all out to promote a safety culture among heavy vehicle operators, including express buses and lorries, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

“We’ve completed the Express Bus Transformation Lab on April 7 and will present the lab results to the Cabinet in a week or so.

“The Cabinet will be briefed on the mitigation efforts to ensure we’ll be able to reduce the impact of express bus accidents,” Liow said after visiting the Bentong Gallery yesterday.

The bus lab was set up in January to study ways to improve the quality of service, safety and sustainability of the bus industry by gathering opinions from all stakeholders, including the public.

Liow said the lab was set up in response to a deadly bus crash in Pagoh in December last year which claimed 14 lives and injured 16, and the Genting bus crash in July last year which killed the driver and injured 15 passengers.

“One of the reasons we found is fatigue of bus drivers who often work long hours for five days without sufficient rest.

“We need to be able to better monitor driver performance, including lorry drivers, to ensure they perform up to the standards required of them,” he said.

He said the Transport Ministry was also in the midst of implementing 51 recommendations by a special panel led by safety advocate Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye after the deadly bus crashes last year.

The recommendations include installing a speedometer on express buses to limit their speed and a speed retarder on lorries to reduce the impact should they get into accidents.

“I’ve set up a special review committee to ensure these recommendations are implemented effectively,” Liow added.

When asked if the Government would consider setting up a similar laboratory for lorries, Liow said the challenges faced by the lorry fraternity was different.

“Not at the moment. I think we’ve enough measures and laws to regulate lorry drivers,” he said.

He attributed the main cause of accidents involving lorries to illegal retread tyres and their debris on highways.

“We’ll monitor the production of retread tyres to ensure they adhere to Sirim standards. Stern action will be taken against factories which do not adhere to the standards,” he said.

On top of that, he said the Government would actively conduct health checks on lorry drivers to ensure they were healthy and not on drugs.

“Enforcement alone is not enough. We need public awareness and participation. Every individual needs to be alert and take precautionary measures to prevent accidents,” he said.

Liow, the MP for Bentong, also attended the groundbreaking ceremony of a new hall for the Leong Guang Cemetery here.

Also present were Pahang MCA chairman Datuk Hoh Khai Mun and Bentong Chinese Town Hall president Datuk Low Long Yang.

He also visited and gave donations to victims of a Wednesday fire that affected four homes in Taman Desa Damai.

Danger of retreaded tyres

by GAN PEI LING © The Star 17 April 2017

PETALING JAYA: Illegally retreaded tyres are putting the lives of road users at stake, so much so that even transport and tyre associations have called for a clampdown on shady retreaders.

An average of two accidents happen daily due to tyre combustion or tyre debris on the road. PLUS Malaysia Bhd recorded 613 road accidents last year on the expressway due to these factors.

Heavy vehicles tend to go for retreaded tyres for the obvious reason.

“A retreaded tyre is usually 50% cheaper than a new tyre,” said Pan Malaysia Bus Operators Association president Datuk Mohamad Ashfar Ali.

Stressing that his members would not buy uncertified retreaded tyres, he said the low quality of some of these illegally tyres could cause them to explode while the vehicle was moving.

These tyres might burst due to overloading, casing, or that the rubber and the glue used on the tyres were below par.

“The tyre is the only contact point between the road and the vehicle. So, it must be able to withstand the heat, the high speed the vehicle is travelling in and the load of the vehicle,” he said.

As such, he said, express buses on long journeys would be fitted with new tyres while normal buses that travel short distances would be installed with retreaded tyres at the back wheel.

Such tyres must come only from certified manufacturers, he said, adding that a tyre should ideally be retreaded only once.

Mohamad Ashfar urged the authorities to crack down harder on illegally retreaded tyre manufacturers.

Pan Malaysia Lorry Owners Association president Jong Foh Jit acknowledged that it was common for lorries to use retreaded tyres as they were cheaper.

“But they must ensure the tyres are certified by Sirim,” he said.

“Some people are tempted to go for cheaper, illegally retreaded tyres due to the economic slowdown, but they may endanger themselves and other road users,” he added.

Jong said some lorry operators would retread a tyre two to three times.

Tyre Retreading Manufacturers Association of Malaysia said it was high time the authorities clamped down on unscrupulous tyre retreaders.

The move would force retreaders to get the Sirim certification and start complying with government standards, association president Chin Hong Meng said.

“We have been encouraging them to get Sirim’s MS224 certification since 2007. That’s 10 years ago! We’ve already given them ample time. It is high time that enforcement was carried out,” he said.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai slammed illegal manufacturers, saying that many fatal accidents were caused by retreaded tyres that did not meet standards.

Study reveals Kinabalu Park fast losing its buffer zone

© The Star 14 April 2017

PETALING JAYA: Kinabalu Park, one of Malaysia’s two World Heritage Sites, has lost large proportions of forests in its buffer zones.

It has been named as one of the worst affected Natural World Heritage Sites, seeing 15,000ha of its forests (about the size of 30,000 football fields) cleared between 2000 and 2012.

This was stated in an international study led by University of Queensland.

“Some notable Natural World Heritage Sites which lost large proportions of forest in their buffer zones are the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites, the Discovery Coast Atlantic Forests in Brazil and Kinabalu Park in Malaysia,” the study published in the Biological Conservation journal in February noted.

The 75,370ha Kinabalu Park is one of two Unesco Natural World Heritage Sites in Malaysia. The other is Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak.

The study revealed that the 203 Natural World Heritage Sites were some of Earth’s most valuable natural assets but many were deteriorating due to urbanisation, agriculture and logging.

“Our findings clearly show that Natural World Heritage Sites are becoming increasingly isolated, which is a concern since their ecological integrity depend on links with the broader landscape,” the study said.

It added that past studies found that environmental degradation around a protected area could lead to similar degradation within its borders.

The Kinabalu Park, which was designated as a Unesco Natural World Heritage Site in 2000, is an epicentre of biodiversity.

Unesco said it was home to at least half of all Borneo’s plant species, birds, mammals, amphibian species and two-thirds of Borneo reptiles unique to the island.

Among the rare species that can only be found in the Kinabalu Park are the Rothschild Slipper orchid and the Rajah Brooke’s Pitcher plant.

Known as the gold of Kinabalu, the Rothschild Slipper orchid takes 15 years to grow. It is one of the world’s most expensive orchids in the black market.

The Rajah Brooke’s Pitcher plant is the world’s largest pitcher plant that can grow up to 41cm.

Sabah Parks director Dr Jamili Nais maintained that the Kinabalu Park and its biodiversity remained intact despite fears over a substantial reduction of its buffer areas.

There was no land clearing or forest damage within the park, which is about three times the size of Penang island, he said.

“The integrity of the park is constantly safeguarded,” he said.

Jamili said there was no designated buffer zone around the world renowned park.

“What happens outside of the park boundaries is beyond the scope of the World Heritage Site.

“Having said that, we should bear in mind that the land surrounding the park is occupied by the native Kadazandusun who have been cultivating crops there for generations,” he said.

Jamili said these people initially practised shifting cultivation but had since switched to permanent farming methods.

Sabah Parks, Jamili said, had initiated a community-based forest conservation known as tagal hutan with villages around the park.

He said Sabah Park was also working towards getting the area to be declared as a Geopark, another Unesco initiative.

Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.

Sabah naturalist Datuk C.L. Chan said a reduction in the buffer area surrounding the Kinabalu Park had not affected the biodiversity within the World Heritage Site.

However, he said Unesco’s concern over the reduction of buffer areas around the park should not be taken lightly.

He said Kinabalu Park could end up as an island within a sea of agriculture and human settlements if the forested areas outside the boundaries continued to be cleared.

Cemetery’s leftover fruits don’t go to waste

BY GAN PEI LING © The Star 3 April 2017

KUALA LUMPUR: To avoid wastage on Qing Ming, a cemetery here donates leftover edible fruits to orphanages and old folks homes.

Association of Kwong Tong Cemetery Management Kuala Lumpur’s administration manager Wey Jiun Horng said the effort was part of the cemetery’s green campaign during the annual Chinese tomb sweeping day.

“A lot of people don’t take back their offerings, so we collect the apples and oranges and give them away.

“The amount of leftovers is so huge that sometimes the homes have to reject the fruits we send over,” he said.

Wey added that the association also educated the public to recycle and cut down the amount of trash.

It successfully reduced waste generated during Qing Ming by 10% last year compared to 2015 and hoped to cut it down by 30% this year.

Wey said at least 150 tonnes of rubbish were left behind each Qing Ming, requiring at least 30 trucks to ferry them away.

“It takes at least three days for our contractors to clean up the cemetery after every weekend,” he said.

The 105.6ha Kwong Tong Cemetery was set up in 1895 and is home to about 100,000 tombs and two columbariums.

Yesterday, the roads leading up to the cemetery off Jalan Dewan Bahasa was clogged up as early as 8am with families coming in droves to honour their ancestors.

Packed with visitors: A bumper-to-bumper jam on one of the roads at Kwong Tong Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur as families throng the cemetery for Qing Ming. Some came as early as 6am to avoid the crowd. — ART CHEN/The Star

While Qing Ming falls on April 4 officially, Wey said people started coming to pay respects to their ancestors two weekends ago, and he expected the visits to continue until next weekend.

Su Ching Pung, 43, who came with his family to visit the tombs of his paternal grandparents, said they did not spend much on hell notes.

“It’s the thought that counts,” he said, adding that they offered chicken, pork, fish, rice and fruits this time.

Ng Kok Peng, 38, from Setapak, braved the traffic to pay respects to his late parents and two younger cousins.

He said his family members, 15 in total, brought along paper offerings worth between RM300 and RM400 to be offered to the deceased.

The items included bungalows, cars, motorcycles, and gold and silver hampers.

Over at the Sinhalese Buddhist cemetery off Jalan Loke Yew, Indian Buddhists also turned up to honour their loved ones.

Unlike the Chinese, their offerings were simpler, mostly just incense sticks and flowers.