Sunday, July 13, 2008

System on the blink - "Help save our home"

Kuching, Sarawak: A woman whose husband went missing at sea last year is struggling to raise their two daughters as a single parent and her ordeal is further aggravated by the sword of Damocles hanging over their roof

WHERE do you go when there is nowhere to turn to? What do you do when all the possessions you hold dear suddenly disappear?

Many of us go through life oblivious to the challenges that many of our fellow citizens face everyday. We often look down, especially on the single mother struggling to feed her family or the homeless soul on the street corner trying to earn a few dollars to buy a hot meal.

We sometimes think we could never be in that kind of situation but actually, many of us are one paycheck away from it.

So where would you be if that life-sustaining paycheck were suddenly gone? Where would you be if your sole breadwinner were not there to put food on the table? And where would you be if that dream home were destroyed by a natural calamity or repossessed?

For single mother Rosnah Abas, 45, most of these grim scenarios have been all too real. Life is one constant arduous struggle as she goes through each day trying to find just enough money to raise her two daughters in their low-cost house at Taman Bandar Baru Semariang in Petra Jaya.

Before Aug 28, 2007, Rosnah had everything she could ever dream of — a loving husband and two beautiful children.

However, when her husband went missing and had not been seen again since, she not only found herself struggling to keep the family together but also having to service her housing loan with the sword of Damocles hanging precariously over her roof.

Just 11 months ago, she thought life couldn’t get any harsher. Now, after losing her husband, the sole bread winner, she concedes life is anything but easy.

Her husband, Mohd Noor The, was reported missing after the deepsea fishing vessel he was working in, capsized in Paloh, Tanjung Sirik Belawai, Sarikei around 2pm on Aug 28 last year. There were four crew members on board. The other three — a local, Sazali Sapiee and two Indonesians, Ari Utoyo Sugiman and Wawan Subani — were rescued.

A police report was made by Sazali at Belawai Police Station the following day for a search and rescue operation to be mounted. Till today, the body of Mohd Noor has not been found.

Throughout the entire ordeal, Rosnah kept her faith in God, trying to carry on the best she could even as hopes faded of ever finding her husband alive.

According to her, it’s her children, aged seven and two, who are giving her the strength to go on.

“There[they] are the reason I get up every morning, selling kuih (cakes) to get by. I manage to earn between RM12 and RM15 a day.”

In the morning, she sells kuih in front of her house while in the evening, she goes from house to house in the neighbourhood.

Rosnah is still able to provide her girls three square meals from her meagre daily earnings. But the one thing she fears most is getting thrown out of her house and becoming homeless.

“Actually, we are just one step away from that now … and I’m getting very worried. I already have outstanding instalments for three months. The bank is coming after me and I have nowhere to turn to,” she said.

Rosnah pays RM343 monthly installment for her RM42,000 intermediate single storey terrace house. Short of a miracle, the only one way for her to get out of her housing loan debt is through her late husband’s life insurance claim. And to do that, she has to furnish the insurer with a certified true copy of the full and final police investigation report into the death of her husband, the inquest and the Court Order on ‘Presumption of Death’.

It has almost been a year, yet Rosnah said she was still unable to even obtain the police report.

“I have sought police help already but have always been told to wait ‘after seven years’. The insurance claim is our only hope to save our house. If I had to wait seven more years, probably we’d be homeless by then.”

Rosnah said she had tried to seek help from Petra Jaya Member of Parliament Fadillah Yusof but failed to meet the YB in person.

“When I went to the office the other day, YB was not in, so I spoke to the secretary and passed him all the necessary documents. Until today, there is still no news from them,” she claimed.

“I’m just appealing for a police report to confirm the death of my husband in order to claim his insurance … nothing more. I need to service my bank loan to keep our home. That way, my family can still depend on me at least for our daily meals.”

According to Rosnah, the insurance company is more than prepared to help expedite the claim.

She said the branch manager here was following up on the case with her regularly.

“In fact, I didn’t know my husband had bought a life insurance policy until the insurer contacted me about two months after he (husband) was reported missing. I’m not sure about the actual amount of claim but the branch manager told me I’m entitled to it.”

Rosnah finds all the red tapes rather distressing. Even the sole local witness to the tragedy, who made a statutory oath [declaration] on her husband’s death, had passed away recently.

“The only witness is gone, and I’m still getting nowhere,” she lamented.

Rosnah said all she was asking for was the police report into the death of her husband.

She does not believe her husband is still alive today, having sought the help of tabib (dukun or medicaster) from the Chinese, Malay and Iban communities who all believe he is dead.

Rosnah said she even dreamt of meeting her husband once and he told her he had died and was living permanently at the place of the tragedy.

She claimed she had gone through almost every channel, including the courts, to seek help but all in vain.

“I just want my due … that’s all. I need the insurance claim to pay for my housing loan. Home is most important to me and my children. What is life without home. It’s the only place I can bring up my two daughters,” she added.

The insurance company confirmed to thesundaypost that Rosnah is entitled to a claim of more than a RM50,000 over her husband’s death.

Meanwhile Fadillah advised Rosnah to come to his office at Petra Jaya with all the necessary documents as soon as possible so that he could find some way to help her.

“If I’m not be around, she can submit to my officer. I’ll try to help get her welfare assistance. I can’t comment further until I see all the documents,” he said.

Fadillah who is also Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister, noted it was required by law that a Court Order on Presumption of Death could only be issued seven years from the day a person was reported missing.


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