KUALA LUMPUR: For more than 40 years, V Kunasegaran was the caretaker of the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad clock tower in front of Dataran Merdeka.
He hardly ever took a day off. Whenever there was an official function – about nine of them each year – he would begin working at 3am to make sure that everything ran, well, like clockwork.
Sometimes, he didn’t even go home. Instead, he would sleep where he was, in the clock tower he worked so hard to maintain.
At first, he worked alongside four others. After 1999, though, it was just him.
In 2016, he received a long-awaited promotion which also came with a raise. But he wasn’t pleased.
For one thing, his promotion came just two weeks shy of his retirement.
For another, the raise amounted to all of RM10.
“I was upset with the raise they gave me,” Kunasegaran told FMT. “I complained to the Department of Survey and Mapping Malaysia (Jupem).
“Did my 42 years of service, where I took care of a national heritage, deserve only an increase of 80 sen a month? Even my grandchildren wouldn’t want it.”
When Kunasegaran was first hired to take care of the clock, his take-home salary was RM146. That was in 1975. His last drawn salary, some three years ago, was RM2,700.
His colleagues also received promotions and an increase in pay. Kunasegaran recalls them being interviewed by the Jupem director-general before being given their letters.
Their increments, though, were RM90 and came much earlier than his.
“I got promoted just two weeks before I retired and a RM10 raise. How is this fair?” he said.
Kunasegaran has received seven awards for excellence throughout his career. But these came at a cost.
His family was never able to plan long vacations. And even when he was on leave, he was always on standby.
“Once, I was called to report for duty at midnight and I went because I wanted to help them,” he said.
Another problem continues to dog him even today: after four decades of hard work, he is still unable to purchase a low-cost home despite several applications since 2014 to the Kuala Lumpur City Hall.
Kunasegaran currently lives with his son in Genting Klang.
“I am ashamed,” he said.
“I worked so hard for the nation and only ask for a little in return, but they can’t even give me that.”