The Life of Ping by Low Hong Ping

Low Hong Ping shares with us an interesting look at his life and Malaysian law -- a week in the Life of Ping.

I learned Constitutional Law from the Dean of my faculty. The fact that it was taught by the Dean elevated the course in my mind to a certain stature and difficulty. What's more, him being thoughtfully opinionated and submitting disagreements 'with respect' meant we're expected to do the same.

When we studied Article 5 on the right to life, my Dean wrote "life" the way it's written here, in quotation marks and underlined, right in the middle of the whiteboard. Instead of sharing what he proceeded to say, I've decided to bore you by sharing my life -- my weekly routine of the 2nd semester of my 2nd year and illustrate what kind of a life I have, constitution-wise:

Monday

My faculty's Christian peers and I would gather once a week for an hour of catching-up and praying with one another. I dreaded the first question – "How was your week?" It made me realise I had been going on like a robot, not remembering what I did and not being aware of the significance of my doing. "Non-existent" was my usual answer.

Persatuan Kristian Varsiti meetings, which are open to all believers on campus, are held on Fridays. But I couldn't attend it because it had been held at an inaccessible place to me, and efforts to hold it somewhere else had been in vain. The preceding sentence has two important points: 1) inaccessible because I'm a wheelchair-bound handsome man, and 2) the vain efforts, in my opinion, could be an infringement on my freedom of religion.

Discussing matters of faith among ourselves at any closed space on campus is not propagating. And having the gathering at a different, secular, more accessible faculty wouldn’t suddenly make the gathering capable of causing discomfort among campus members, except if they are so sensitive that it borders to insecurity.

Proselytising Muslims, converting kids to the Islamic faith, threatening to burn scriptures, putting fire on religious places and even the use of “Allah” pertain to Article 11 – the right of every person to profess and practise his religion. If we are to accept and tolerate all parties to avoid these disputes or solve them amicably, we first need to do the very basic: grant the right to every person – every, in the fullest sense of the word – in a place where freedom of religion is learned.

Tuesday

The case of the legal definition of life is Tan Tek Seng v Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Pendidikan & Anor [1996] 1 MLJ 261, which is also a landmark case for Administrative Law, the course which is taught on every Tuesday and Thursday. In Tan Tek Seng, the dismissal of a school principal was held to be a disproportionate punishment to the criminal act which he had committed. It was said that an administrative decision must be both procedurally and substantively fair.

If the dismissal of the school principal was unfair and hence invalid, then what would the court say if a disabled person was denied the chance to pursue his education at the school of his choice? I was rejected twice – both when I was entering into Form 1 and 6 – because the schools were unwilling to have my class on the ground floor. One school said they couldn't change because of one person. The other even said I would pull their standard down (which tickles me every time I think about it).

As I'm being educated in legal studies, I realise the schools might have been unfair and unlawful. The right to education is expressly provided by the Constitution, yet it was also expressly, in a way, taken away from me. Nonetheless, I did enroll into other schools – SMK Seri Bintang Utara and St. John's Institution – and I'm proud to call them my alma maters. The point is: What was in the minds of the school authorities? Have things changed?

Wednesday

There's a three-hour gap on Wednesdays between classes. During this period, I would rest in my faculty's common room; however, it isn't the only place for my friends to chill. Two other spots are the cafeteria and another common room called the Pink Corner, both of which are reached through stairs at the time of writing.

The case of Government of Malaysia & Ors v Loh Wai Kong [1979] 2 MLJ 33 is criticised for its reasoning holding that a person doesn't have the right to a passport, which effectively means that a person's right to travel isn't protected. But if traveling is fundamental, as the Indian courts have opined so, then what happens to my freedom of going to every corner of my own faculty stand? Don’t even get me started on the accessibility of my university.

Socialising the way people do where they usually chill suspends my awareness of my disability, making me feel I am able and welcomed. Further, if any part of the country's top university isn't accessible to all its students, can we expect the country's deep rural areas to be accessible to benevolent outsiders?

Thursday

At the mercy of being sanctioned or called seditious, I must now hide behind what my Dean calls it one of the most important rights of all – the freedom of speech. It links to Thursdays because of English classes where our tutor always encourages us to voice our opinion. Personally, he encouraged me to publish my writing, and so here it is, a published write-up of my opinion.

If I remember correctly, the freedom of speech is the most important right because it's an avenue, a channel through which all other rights are protected; because people must ventilate their grievances to improve democracy; and because criticism is part of a government upholding the Rule of Law. This piece is a sincere attempt of portraying the virtues associated to freedom of speech. If I fail to exercise my right appropriately, cry your dissatisfaction and constructively criticise me, so that I can be better.

Friday

I'm tempted to cremate Fridays by ranting on the grave tendencies of my lecturers to have replacement classes on a day when I am supposed to rest in peace. But then again, the only ghost that replacement classes disturbed was my haunting laziness, a spirit whom ambitious law students must give a decent burial. There was a particular Friday[I1] , though, when my zeal for law studies was resurrected. We were given a briefing on a 10,000-word project paper on a socio-legal topic of our choice which we have to finish by the end of 3rd year.

It doesn't require many neurons to guess that I plan to write something on disability. However, there are problems. Apart from knowing not more than five disabled peers, my parents have raised me up in a conducive normal environment where I've been accustomed to the outside world. But looking from a different angle, I've been living in a cocoon, not understanding the predicaments faced by many in the disabled community, especially those who have less loving families or less financial stability.

I admit with a tinge of shame that there's this inner barrier hindering me from communicating freely with other disabled persons. Perhaps I simply don't meet them often or perhaps it’s like ice between strangers. Maybe I've been so acquainted with "normal" people that when I see the disabled, I don’t instantly see them as normal people. Either way, I hope to break into the realm of disability and make a difference. I want to use this chance to reflect on whether I’m doing truly matters. I wish I could use whatever legal and writing skills I have to accomplish what God has called on me to do for my brothers and sisters.

Saturday

It's the day when the least happened. In other words, it's the day I became lifeless by sitting in front of my laptop completing assignments and tutorial questions. Not that I could stand, anyway. Still, I squeezed some time to write on my blog, although “writing” here is neither the act of holding a pen and carving words on paper nor typing on the keyboard. I can’t do both. Instead, I write by clicking the letters one-by-one on an on-screen keyboard or by using a speech recognition software.

So I put down my thoughts and feelings to achieve what you achieve when your fingers dance on the piano, when your legs free you for 10km or when you participate in the trending pastime nowadays – rallying. Oh, did you think I was talking about Candy Crush?

Through the effects of cell degeneration, there was a time when I could still manage to literally write and so there’ll be a time when I can't even figuratively write. Till then, I'll keep on going.

Sunday

Watching movies is my family's favourite Sunday activity. For a city kid, the GSC Cinemas of Pavilion and Midvalley Megamall are common destinations. But even before I evaluate the friendliness of the cinemas towards the disabled, getting a parking space reserved for us...... well, you can guess where I'm heading to. Once my family and I waited for a parking lot along fully-occupied disabled spaces.

Then a group of healthy young couples came down and went into two cars parked there. Healthy. Young. Two disabled spaces.

The cinemas provide facilities for wheelchair users; there's a service lift in Pavilion and a dark and long pathway between the lift and the halls in Midvalley. The service lift is unpainted, stuffy and smelly while the pathway is littered with potholes, a nightmarish surface for wheels to roll on.

The facilities are in stark contrast to the exterior designs and comfortable seats. Putting aside the issue of equality, this embarrassing difference in treatment shows the mentality of our people towards disabled people. Interestingly, GSC Cinemas in Tropicana Mall (newly built) has a proper lift within its decent design. Which means that GSC Cinemas or the mall is aware of its responsibility of catering to the disabled equally, yet neglects to invest its wealth in improving the existing facilities.

And ticket prices are rising.

I have an ordinary life; considering the love of my family, friends, teachers, church and God, I'd say it's been splendid. Nonetheless, law courses have taught me that however much I have, it may be less than the rights I deserve as a disabled person in a modern constitutional age, yet it may also be much more than what the underprivileged many scarcely have. So, allow me to explain to you the legal issues that I've experienced or am interested in, an exercise that's part of the training I need before I could fight, if ever, at the macro level, by sharing with you the story of my life.

With respect.

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