The advertisement by the owner, a radiologist, for rental of her
apartment suite at Bistari condominium near the PWTC and The Mall
explicitly states “No Indians”, something so bold and blunt unseen in
the housing ads of newspapers.
Her problem with Indians: curry! She would not have her tenant
cooking up a "toxic" cloud of curry fumes that permeates the entire
1,500 sq ft suite.
I asked her property agent: “Are Indians the only ones who cook curry?” “Are Indians the only ones who enjoy curry?"
Asked if the advertisement that specified "No Indians" was
prejudiced, she said it was a condition by the owner that would be in
the tenancy agreement.
There is, however, no legal position on people stirring overpowering and lingering whiffs in apartments.
Real estate negotiators and lawyers tell me there is nothing in a
contract that can get a tenant evicted for cooking curry.
this case Indians are being treated less favourably than other tenants
when we know housing discrimination is unlawful and unacceptable.
If you don’t want an Indian tenant, you don’t have to broadcast it to
the whole world. Deal with it privately and sensibly instead of
indulging in racial steering.
It’s beyond me why the newspaper published the discriminatory “No
Indians” condition when it monitors ads for other reasons, such as
obscenity and deceptive advertising.
It cannot argue that monitoring for
discriminatory messages was a burden as the practice of racial steering
is provocative and bears serious social ramifications.
The right thing to do would be to pass on to regulatory authorities
the details of those individuals who post discriminatory ads that
excluded prospective tenants on the basis of race, gender, family
status, marital status, national origin, and religion.
To evaluate owner-sentiment toward Indian tenants, a Being Frank
enquiry was launched over the weekend with visits to six high-end
apartment suites in various parts of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya.
I was the prospective tenant, with "four children" and in all cases, the owners found me, meaning an Indian, a liability:
● One told the agent, who accompanied me, Indians make too much noise
and create a mess.
However, when I offered him RM300 extra a month for
the RM2,100 apartment, he accepted.
● Another said Indians were known to be quarrelsome “so that won't work out”.
● Three of them said four kids were too many, so “No children”.
● One asked me what car I drove and wanted a letter from my company
stating my position and a copy of the monthly pay slip. He obviously
didn’t trust this Indian.
The owners of two other apartments I was scheduled to see told their
agents not to show the units to Indians. Their contention: Indians are
messy, too loud and do not give the apartment complex a good image.
I was astonished and can conclude that fair and equal access to
housing is not a cornerstone of our society. Equal access to housing in
Malaysia is a fundamental right and this nation should not tolerate
discrimination in housing.
Few things are more fundamental to success and happiness than having a safe place to live.
The government should actively pursue these concerns with the goal of fairness and equity for all.
Admittedly, there are differences in our culture and social practices
but such blatant profiling of any ethnicity is destructive to society.
It’s just pure pomposity — conceit that causes human relationships to be
lost, self-righteousness that causes the trust to be lost too.
There may be good reasons for excluding certain troublesome types or
undesirables, but whole scale social exclusion is divisive and is the
thin end of a more sinister mindset.
Let us treat this responsibility as an opportunity. A chance to take
stock, to ask ourselves: how did it come to this? Is it a material,
genetic or self-inflicted deficiency that has led one to ignore
co-existing in harmony?
The first step to rehabilitation is to recognise you have a problem.
FRANKIE D'CRUZ is editor-at-large of The Malay Mail. The multiple award-winning journalist can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.