KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — Life has been a living hell for residents at the Mutiara Fadason low-cost flats in Kepong since their elevator malfunctioned about three weeks ago.
It has been difficult especially for the disabled, elderly, sick, pregnant women and children to carry out their everyday chores.
One of them is 70-year-old Yap Ping Chai who lives on the 16th floor of Block C as he is left with no choice but to use the stairs since the lift broke down on Aug 20.
"It takes me about half an hour to get to my house from the ground floor as I take breaks in between because of my age.
"In the morning, I'll help to get groceries for my wife from the market and sometimes I would leave home in the evening for a meal," he said adding that making numerous trip was simply too exhausting.
Built 15 years ago as a permanent residence for the urban poor squatters, the three 18-floored blocks of low-cost flats have a total of six elevators (two for each block) with Block C's both elevators completely malfunctioned.
About a week ago, another Block C resident, B. Uma injured herself in the face after she fell down while descending the stairs from the 17th floor.
The 43-year-old housewife said she has no choice but to take the stairs everyday.
Uma who has since recovered from her injuries said she was disappointed with the flat's Joint Management Board (JMB) for their inaction.
Block C residents' representative R. Jessie, 47, pointed out that 360 families currently residing in the block relied only on one elevator after the other elevator went into disrepair about two years ago.
"The Department of Occupational Safety and Health Malaysia had fined the previous JMB for not maintaining the elevator but that's all.
"How long we will have to wait before a life is lost? We need urgent assistance to restore the lift into working order," she said.
Jessie said many residents faced extreme difficulties as some were sufferers of chronic diseases which required medical treatment outside of their homes.
"Each day without the elevator is life-threatening to these people who have to climb flights of stairs and risk injuries.
"So far there has been a least five cases involving injuries, mostly old folks," she said.
Jessie claimed that the JMB's excuse is that it lacked the financial capability to service the lifts as repair work would cost RM40,000 for Block C only.
"The new JMB which took over in January were unable to fix the problem because they had to shoulder debts accumulated by previous JMBs of around RM933,300," she said.
Asked about the maintenance fee collection, Jessie said a fee of RM100 were ordered to be paid for the lift maintenance, but residences stopped paying after they felt unsatisfied with the JMB's performance.
"Therefore we are asking the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and the ministry to take over maintenance of the lifts," she said.
However a JMB representative refuted the inaction claims made by residents, saying the management was aware of the issue and was not being ignorant.
Treasurer Song Kok An said the management was already in the process of finding a reasonably-priced contractor to service one of the lifts.
"Hopefully by this week we can get the lift in working order after the contractor has inspected the situation," he said.
Song also admitted that the JMB was facing financial difficulties to maintain all three residential blocks as some residents refused to pay the monthly maintenance fees.
"How are we going to find the means to sustain if we do not have the money to do so?" he added that the total debts amounted to about a million.
Meanwhile, Parti Sosialis Malaysia secretary-general A. Sivarajan has demanded the Housing and Local Government ministry to interfere in their predicament by allocating funds for the maintenance of the lifts as practiced by the Selangor state government through its Skim Ceria initiative.
"The initiative, which sees the state government funding 80 per cent of the cost while the JMB contributes 20 per cent, is an excellent long-term solution.
"However we do not have such initiative in Kuala Lumpur and we want the ministry to do the same here," he said.
Sivarajan said residents were in the process of gathering signatures to submit a petition and discuss with the ministry by next week.