Kg Mumong family seeks help

National 3 minutes, 45 seconds

BELAIT

THE solutions may appear obvious and readily available for those seeking assistance in the welfare state of Brunei. But when a family must take into account the requirements of a special needs child, those solutions can put them between a rock and a hard place.

Such is the case for Rosmadi Suhaili and his wife Rosni Mahali, whose situation is underlined by the fact that their eldest son has autism.

“All we want for our family and children is to live in a safe and comfortable house,” said 41-year- old Rosmadi, who has been living at his family house in Kg Mumong for 20 years.

The wooden house's age is apparent: there is severe damage in almost every corner, with extensive rotting in the kitchen foundations leaving holes in the floor.

Weather has taken its toll on the flimsy plywood finishing on the house’s exterior. Gaping holes in the roofing meant that the family has to deal with rainwater during bad weather.

The two bedrooms are no longer sheltered from the elements and the two parents sleep with their four children, aged four to fourteen years old in a cramped living room.

The toilets have long been in disuse; they now use a separate zinc-roof lavatory built in the compound outside.

Rosmadi works the night shift as an operator in Badas while his wife is a civil servant. Their cumulative income should be enough for some comfort, but their monthly commitments leave no savings that would help them repair their home.

“Most of our income goes to servicing the car loans (including one for the wife’s brother who just started work) and a personal bank loan. Our eldest son and young children’s needs are high. They need daily diapers and two are going to school,” he said.

An application for special needs cash assistance six years ago was turned down, as Rosmadi was told that he was still young and was able to work.

The family's case is not unknown to the authorities. Various agencies, from the District Office to the Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah (YSHHB), have stepped in before to assist, offering the family housing options. However, their particular circumstance have forced Rosmadi to decline past assistance.

“We were offered government housing in Mumong... but our autistic son has a habit of wandering. The house offered was too close to the main road and we felt it was too dangerous for him,” said Rosmadi.

He referred to a past incident when, while he was asleep, his son wandered all the way out to the highway near Rasau and climbed a billboard to the top. A foreign worker had helped rescue him but not after the incident caused a minor ruckus, even making it to newspaper headlines.

It may have been amusing to readers then but it was certainly no funny matter to Rosmadi.

“That is why we declined the house, and that is why I am working nights, as my wife works in the day, so we can always supervise our son.”

To further add to their disappointment, last year Rosni received a letter from the Housing Development Department informing that they had been accepted into a housing scheme. However, they could not secure the guarantors necessary.

“Neither of my siblings are government nor Brunei Shell Petroleum (BSP) employees, which was the requirement for guarantors,” said Rosni.

Kg Mumong Village Head Yang Berhormat Hj Mohd Yusof Hj Dulamin told The Brunei Times that he had helped them apply for assistance to repair their home several years ago, but outstanding land issues prevented that route.

“The land is under the name of Rosni’s late father. They first have to discuss with their family to legally transfer the land ownership to the couple, and then the government can seek to assist them with finances to repair their home. As a civil servant, Rosni can even apply for a government loan to do that,” said YB Hj Mohd Yusof.

Rosni said that she had forwarded the name transfer application last year but has yet to hear back from the authorities.

“My advice to them is to accept the government barracks and live there temporarily until they can settle the issue of their current house. The safety and security of the family in the current house is at risk as the condition there is unsafe,” said the village head.

Meanwhile, the family continues to live in the dilapidated house, suspended in an unfortunate set of circumstance.

The Brunei Times