‘Ghetto’ life pushes Klang Valley resident to seek space in Johor

By Ben Tan
Johor Baru-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Persatuan Prihatin Kempas chairman Salim Hj Daud has about 15 years of experience in attending to plights and grouses of flat residents. ― Picture courtesy of Salim Hj Daud

JOHOR BARU, Jan 22 ― At the high-rise Flora Damansara flats in Selangor four years ago, a car tyre fell and damaged a car with passengers still inside.

For Ikhwan Zulkaflee, 30, the incident that he witnessed was the last straw that prompted him to look for better living conditions.

“It was shocking to see a car tyre that was mounted on a rim landing on innocent victims in a car when I was living in Flora Damansara in Petaling Jaya back in 2013.

“The victims were lucky that they were alive, despite their car roof being badly damaged,” said Ikhwan, who said he now cherishes proper living conditions for his family.

At that time, the former journalist was staying at a rented flat unit which he described as a “ghetto” in terms of its tenants and living conditions.

He said living in the flats was never peaceful and he had to make do as his budget did not allow for better living conditions then.

That particular event left bad memories for him as for him it was unacceptable for someone to even throw such a huge item out from the upper storeys without thinking of the consequences.

“I can’t imagine if that was me and my family in the car,” Ikhwan told Malay Mail when met recently at his current condominium in Medini, a new township in the Iskandar Puteri region near here.

Ikhwan said he stayed another year after the incident, before moving out to a condominium here which offered not only bigger space, but proper maintenance.

“I made the choice as I couldn't accept that such things that can take away an innocent life was happening at home.

“I didn't mind paying more for my condominium’s rental that offers safety and better living conditions,” he said, adding that his current condominium has international tenants that also respect tenants’ privacy.

Ikhwan said such callous actions by tenants must be dealt with seriously by the authorities as they are bound to involve children and other innocent lives.

He said that due to the safety concerns in living in high-rise areas, he has now opted to buy a landed property in Johor Baru instead.

“Frankly, I have always preferred to live in a landed house rather than a high-rise unit,” said Ikhwan.

Meanwhile, Johor Baru resident Iqmal Halil Ismail said he is planning to move his family out of the lower middle-class three-storey flats in Taman Perling here, citing the day-to-day discomfort of staying in such an area.

“It’s not good as I can’t even buy a new car as there is a shortage of parking spaces and most of the tenants have to double park and leave their car doors unlocked for people to push it aside,” he said.

At present, the 42-year-old contractor said the only good side of staying at the flats is the affordable rental of RM420 per month for a two-bedroom unit.

“Of course, I have to endure the cramped living conditions and also realising that the place is not conducive for raising my family of two boys aged 6 and 8.

“In addition to that, the my wife points out that the area is laden with social ills like crime and drug-related problems,” said Iqmal when met at the residential area.

Iqmal, whose extended family also resides in the Larkin flat area in Johor Baru said the living conditions there are also similar.

“There are joint management bodies to look into shortcomings in the respective flats, but not all grievances are looked into.

“For both my rented Taman Perling and Larkin flat units, leaking roofs and walls, clogged drains and sewerage pipes are considered normal occurrences,” he said, adding that residents still have a habit of throwing rubbish out of windows.

Iqmal said such attitudes of people have to change with the times.

However, he also cautioned that not every resident can be approached as some “old-timers” would also cause trouble as most of them are stubborn about changing their surroundings.