Kidex might shatter safety net of the elderly

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Lim: This highway (Kidex) has affected me very badly because I have planned this house as a retirement home.

PETALING JAYA: Moving to a new house has always been a hassle, as it involves a lot of work and effort and is also time consuming. For some (especially the youth), it could be the start of a new chapter and a grand new adventure.

But when you are in your twilight years and face the possibility of being uprooted from familiar surroundings, it becomes a nightmare instead of an adventure.

This is the sentiment of many of the elderly long-time residents in Section 17 here who might face forced eviction if the Kinrara-Damansara Expressway (Kidex) is constructed.

“I have stayed here since 1976 and I purchased my house in 1974 from the developer for RM25,000. I was not notified [by any officials] that my house has been ‘frozen’ (gazetted) without notice,” said 70-year-old Jeanne Lim.

The senior citizen told The Edge Financial Daily that she was on holiday when a neighbour called her and “shocked” her with the unwelcome news.

“They (the authorities) didn’t tell us about any compensation or give us any indication [of any]. I was very angry with the government. There’s no security in this country. When you buy a freehold property, you would think it’s yours for life.

“You do hear from people about [the] government acquiring houses. This highway (Kidex) has affected me very badly because I have planned this house as a retirement home.”

Despite the state government lifting the freeze on the houses and Kidex Sdn Bhd revealing that possibly fewer than 300 properties will be acquired, Lim still fears losing her home of nearly 40 years.

However what keeps her up at night is her worry that she might no longer be able to receive the usual medical treatment for herself and her aging mother-in-law and may have to change her lifestyle.

“I am old and I suffer from the normal things old people suffer from like high blood sugar and cholesterol levels. I have to go for my check-ups every month. My doctor lives in my neighbourhood, has a practice nearby and knows my whole medical history.

Land acquisition is not resolved by mere cash compensation as Lim articulates. She voiced her concern for her neighbours, particularly a blind man who lives about 15 minutes away, another elderly lady whose parents bought the house for her, and an elderly gentleman down the street who only has one kidney.

“I worry more about my friends. It will be a lot worse for them. My blind friend ... he is able to move around in his current house because of familiarity.

“If you take that away from him ... how is he supposed to survive? And I have another elderly lady friend who was very sheltered by her parents and never married. She told me she doesn’t even know how to go about buying a new house.

“My neighbour down the street ... he only has one kidney. Sometimes when he needs help he will call us and we will bring him food and take care of him. Who is going to care for all these people if they force us to relocate? We look after one another here,” said Lim gesturing at the tranquil neighbourhood.

The neighbourhood’s strong aversion to the Kidex highway can be seen with the many “Say No To Kidex” signs plastered on nearly every house.

Retired pastor Isaac Yim, who has lived in the neighbourhood for 17 years, was unaware that he might be one of those forced to give up their homes

“My house was gazetted?” asked Yim, looking blankly at Lim.

“My neighbour did inform me about Kidex but no one [from the authorities or government] officially informed us. I had to find out on my own. Generally we are not happy with this. Even if we don’t have to move out, the level of pollution and noise will affect us.

“This area is already congested,” Yim said. “You add more pillars, more construction ... it will just make it worse.”

His sentiments were echoed by 73-year-old William Wee, who was already thinking of moving out due to the proposed Kidex highway even if his home is not gazetted and taken away from him.

“If they really build it ... and if I can afford it ... I might move out. Because by then, everything here will be polluted. We might not be able to deal with it. But if that happens, I don’t know if we can afford to move out,” he said fearing the possibility that their properties’ prices might drop.

One of the houses in Section 17, Petaling Jaya.
The parking lot of an apartment block in Section 17.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on September 11, 2014.