GEORGE TOWN: A family of four slept overnight in the corridor of a low-cost flat here on Christmas Day, after their landlord forcefully evicted them following their failure to pay RM900 in three months’ rent.
The family’s belongings were spread across the narrow, concrete corridor of the fifth floor of their flat.
They spent the night sleeping on a thin mattress just next to the lifts at Rifle Range Flats in Air Hitam here.
Not far away is the refuse chamber chute, which stank.
For Looi Say Chye, 52, and his Indonesian wife, Umi, 43, it was still better than having no roof over their head.
Their two young children, aged 6 and 8, were still full of laughter as a team of reporters gathered around their “paradise”, probably not understanding their parents’ hardship.
“Kadang kadang ada angin. (There is some breeze)” Ah Boy, Looi’s youngest said when asked how he liked sleeping there.
Looi could not afford to pay the RM900 rent for his 340 sq ft flat after he was let go by his employers three months ago.
Since then, he has been doing odd jobs to feed the hungry at home. But he said he does not make that much from the odd jobs, with the money barely enough for sustenance.
His wife, Umi, works as a part-time dishwasher at restaurants nearby, earning about RM5 to RM10 at a time.
But the Bandung, West Java, native can only work half a day as she needs to pick her children up from a free kindergarten nearby.
Ah Boy’s elder sister, Cindy, 8, also attends kindergarten together with him, as their parents cannot afford school.
The two children are stateless, despite being born in Penang. This was because Umi and Looi did not have their marriage registered, due to differences in religion.
Looi and his family are using the public toilet at the Rifle Range Market below their block to wash up.
“I just want a place to stay for my wife and children while I search for another job.
“I hope someone can help. I am not too concerned about myself. Just help my wife and children,” he said in Hokkien.
Explaining how he lost his job, Looi said he was let go after his boss felt that he was too weak to carry items any more.
He worked as a delivery man at a photocopy and printing shop on Kedah Road and often had to carry reams of building plans on his motorcycle to be delivered to developers.
Looi suffered a stroke six years ago which limited the movements on his right arm. But he said he was now able to use his right arm fully.
To make things worse, after he was let go, he claimed the bosses demanded RM30,000 in treatment costs after he was hit by a van while crossing the street in 2010.
“I was sending building plans to a developer in town. As I was crossing the street, I was hit. I broke my right leg. I was sent to the Penang Hospital then. My boss paid for the treatment.
“After they let go of me three months ago, they said: ‘Oh, you have no energy, no need to work.’
“And my boss gave me RM1,000 and asked me to pay him back RM30,000 for my accident treatment many years ago,” Looi said.
He said he was a Social Security Organisation contributor but could not make any claims as he had misplaced his police report.
Looi said his family was also of no help as his only surviving family member, his younger brother, did not want to have anything to do with him.
“After my mother died years ago, he sold our family house in Perak Lane. He never gave me any money and has been ignoring me,” Looi said.
He said he moved to the Rifle Range flats two years ago, after renting a kampung house near the Dhoby Ghaut area.
Those who wish to help Looi can contact the Kebun Bunga assemblyman’s service centre’s officer Loh Eng Kim at 04-826-5451 or 012-488-6970.