Selangor Journal
Syamsul Firdaus hands out basic necessities to residents in PJS4, Taman Medan, Petaling Jaya. — Picture via FACEBOOK

Adun Speaks: Breaking the cycle of urban poverty

By Alang Bendahara

TAMAN Medan (N33) is home to 100,000 people, many of whom are from the B40 low-income group. Most of them live in cramped houses of not more than 60,000 square kilometres in size, in areas that no longer have any space for new development. Since becoming elected as its state assemblyman, Syamsul Firdaus Mohamed Supri, a first-term representative, has worked hard to alleviate the people from their urban poor trap, engaging with various government agencies to help its 48,000 voters.

Using his years of knowledge working as a special assistant to a state assemblyman, 48-year-old Syamsul is no stranger to dealing with people’s woes. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the enforcement of the movement control order (MCO), Taman Medan’s B40 group is now at 70 to 75 per cent of its total population compared to 50 to 55 per cent previously. Although his challenges are innumerable, Syamsul remains confident that he can help them get the assistance they need.

Selangor Journal (SJ): What is the primary industry in your constituency?

Syamsul Firdaus Mohamed Supri (SFMS): Most of them are small enterprises, small-time traders and residents who operate food stalls or small shops — this is the primary industry in Taman Medan. As it is a densely populated area, not many factories are located here. What you can see are a lot of hawker stalls.

SJ: What is the main attraction in Taman Medan?

SFMS: With the many hawker stalls here, residents from surrounding areas come to Taman Medan looking for food or exotic fruits such as durian and Malay delicacies. Every night before the MCO, the food stalls will be packed with people. Also, people come here to look for small shops selling bric-a-brac, or tailors and small boutiques.

SJ: What are the concerns raised by your constituents, and how do you address them?

SFMS: A lot of the residents are the urban poor. Some senior citizens used to work in the private sector but now have no income and are dependent on their children, who are also not so well off. Also, there is a problem with the very dense population. We have situations where two families live in the same house, as in, grown children who get married still live with their parents due to financial constraints in getting their own places.

I work with relevant agencies such as the Selangor Zakat Board, the Social Welfare Department and non-governmental organisations to help ease their financial woes. But we make sure that they are not just receiving. We also provide the means for them to get out of their situation, like the saying: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” So to do this, we work with relevant state agencies to provide them with new skills such as entrepreneurship to find other means of getting an income.

As for the houses that are too cramped, those with two or three families living under the same roof, we try to help the breadwinners get better incomes so that they can move out and stay in their own homes.

SJ: What are your achievements so far in your constituency?

SFMS: I am glad to have achieved several goals in my three years as the state assemblyman of Taman Medan. We successfully implemented several schemes under the state government, such as Inisiatif Peduli Rakyat (IPR) and have the highest number of people receiving assistance compared to other state constituencies.

Many kinds of assistance and benefits from the Selangor government for the B40 group have been efficiently implemented and distributed to the people. Incentive such as the Skim Mesra Usia Emas (SMUE), Peduli Sihat Selangor and Kasih Ibu Smart Selangor (Kiss) were all carried out successfully.

In the future, we will enhance these programmes to get more people to receive assistance.

SJ: What are some of your problem-solving methods?

SMFS: I use the community a lot when trying to solve problems. I engage with representatives from residents such as the Residents’ Association, Residents Representative Council, Joint Management Council, Rukun Tetangga, and places of worship. I also rope in help from the business associations here.

Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah), they have welcomed my efforts, and I have received their total cooperation.

With their help, I’ve collected information about more people and am now better able to help.

This approach has proven to work, and we managed to implement all our planned programmes and reached our targets.

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