Drug rehab centre pins hopes on Dr M to ward off eviction

Pengasih Malaysia co-founder Ramli Abd Samad.

KUALA LUMPUR: A small, inconspicuous signboard along Jalan Syers in Bukit Tunku here marks the entrance to a road leading to Pengasih Malaysia, a drug rehabilitation centre.

Pengasih was founded 28 years ago by former drug addicts and remains the only centre run entirely by addicts.

Over the years, those running the non-profit centre, which is nestled in 3.2ha of lush greenery, claim to have helped more than 5,000 people struggling with addiction.

In a city home to more than 1,500 addicts, Pengasih for many is more than just a collection of hostel blocks, halls and trees. It is hope of better days ahead.

But an ongoing legal battle between Pengasih and a subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional could see the rehab centre having to give up the piece of the land it is sitting on, something its co-founder, Ramli Abd Samad, hopes will not happen.

Speaking to FMT, Ramli, who is Persatuan Pengasih Malaysia president, said he hoped the new administration, in particular Khazanah Nasional chairman and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, will intervene in the matter.

Pengasih Malaysia has been offered an alternative place in Bentong, Pahang, but would prefer to stay at its present place in Bukit Tunku, Kuala Lumpur.

Ramli explained that of the 3.2ha Pengasih occupied, only 1.4ha is owned by Khazanah subsidiary STLR Sdn Bhd, with the remainder being federal land.

But, he said, STLR’s land, where Pengasih’s boy’s hostel and surau are located, is sandwiched between the plots of land owned by the government.

“In 2012, STLR discussed with us about relocating us to a site in Bentong, Pahang. They told us they would give us a better facility.”

The proposed centre, said Ramli, was to be an international standard facility, complete with amenities like a multipurpose hall, hostel, sports facilities, prayer rooms and land for economic activities.

However, Ramli claimed the construction of the facility did not met the standards they had expected, with some facilities, including a surau, medical block, hall, guardhouse and fencing, yet to be completed.

“In 2017, we were asked to move out but we refused because the facility was not ready.”

He said it was then that STLR took the matter to court.

Ramli said Pengasih would prefer to stay at its current location, adding it was important for Kuala Lumpur to have a place like it in the city.

“Here, there is access to public transportation, it is near Hospital Kuala Lumpur and it’s easy for families to come to visit,” he said, adding some of Pengasih’s “clients” were also still in school or working in the city.

“We hope Tun (Mahathir) will step in and allow us to stay. We know Tun is a compassionate person and will help our cause.”

When contacted, Khazanah managing director Shahril Ridza Ridzuan told FMT that the dispute was taken to court as no agreement could be reached.

“I believe a number of reasonable proposals had been made to them and we hope that further discussions can be had to reach an agreement.”

Shahril, who took over the reins at Khazanah last year, said he was sure STLR would welcome an opportunity to discuss the matter further with Ramli.