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When greed knows no bounds, even at cemeteries

April 20, 2012

FMT LETTER: From Concerned, via e-mail

The Chinese Qingming (tomb-sweeping) season has just ended. As someone who has followed the elders to pay respects to our ancestors since young, I have observed an unhealthy trend in some of the older Chinese cemeteries in central Kuala Lumpur, one example being the Kwang Tung Cemetery near Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka.  I’m not talking about newer cemeteries or memorial parks which are more professional, transparent, and accountable in their dealings.

In recent years, there appears to have been companies set up to collect payments from visitors to the graves are taking advantage of ignorance amongst the Chinese folk.  They have their collectors roaming around the cemeteries asking for money from visitors. Their claim is that the payment (and no, they don’t call it a donation) is for, supposedly, cutting the grass for you.

One of these collectors even dared to rudely say: “If you want to pray to your ancestors, you have to pay first” as though it was their ancestors who owned the place. It is important to bear in mind that, firstly, no one has asked them for such an uninvited “service.”  Each year many families such as mine would tend to bring our their grass-cutters to cut the grass and paint to repaint the fading colours on the on the tombstones.

Secondly, these companies are doing a half-past-six job.  And yet they dare to ask for amounts like RM30 for single-lot graves (and even asking for RM60 on double-lot graves). And also, unlike public limited companies which are accountable to shareholders, these are merely private limited companies which do not publish figures on how these ridiculous charges are arrived at. It does not take a genius to figure out that such charges would also go towards paying the commissions of the collectors/runner who do the collection.

Such attempts to make a fast buck from filial Chinese folk are downright appalling. Many  appear to be unaware that they are not obliged to pay such ridiculous amounts for something that they can do themselves, and which they in fact have been doing themselves for generations before such companies came along.

The analogy is simple. Suppose someone shows up at your house gate when you’re not at home (a house and land which you bought and own) , and paints the outside of your front gate -  without your permission, and without your asking him for this “service”.  Next when you get home, this someone comes and asks you for a payment for what he claims to have done.

That shows just how ridiculous their modus operandi is.

It might have been different, if the two parties had made a signed agreement that one wanted to receive the service and the other wanted to give the service, but this is clearly not the case here.

Another analogy:  If you bought an old-fashioned terrace house from the 70s or 80s that was not a modern-day gated community to begin with, no matter subsequently how many gates whoever else wants to build around that neighbourhood, that doesn’t at all turn it into a gated community where fees are written into the contract agreement. Instead the understanding of what you originally purchased remains unchanged.

The daylight-robbery type of amounts that these people are asking for (and bear in mind that some people have 3-4 tomestones to visit when more of the older generation passes away), the half-past-six quality of the so-called “service”, and the rude attitude shown by these collectors tells us much about the inherent greed found in business people these days. Even the cemetery and its visitors are not spared the greediness of human nature.

As someone who has donated generously to temples and schools, I have seen many other generous folk out there as well who do the same.  There is no reason why a donation method which has been the way over the decades should suddenly be insufficient (especially when there are rich Chinese who are willing to give back to the community in addition to normal folk).  It becomes clear that someone decided that this was too good a cash cow to be missed.

Such “asking for money” activities do not have the consensus of the people who are being asked to pay.  At the very least, normal folk should be educated on their rights.  So I hope you can publish this for everyone’s knowledge.  Free up Malaysians from ignorance and from being preyed upon by anyone.


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