Komunitikini spent an evening with the very vocal Anthony Thanasayan to learn what it was like to be a MBPJ councillor overseeing sections 6, 7, 9 and 52. He also heads the Disability Technical Team, Clean Zone and the Canine Advisory Team (CAT), as well as being the president of Petpositive.
Anthony was born disabled but at the age of 49, he has learnt to make the best of it turning him into one of the most prominent advocates of the rights of people with disabilities in the country.
Anthony’s proudest work with MBPJ is the introduction of the disabled-friendly universal sidewalks in Petaling Jaya which he says was long overdue. He continues by saying that needs of the disabled have long been ignored by local councils and now that he is a part of it, it was a “calling” to fight for the cause.
On official duties Anthony rides in a modified van with a hydraulic ramp at the back end which allows him to get on and off the van with a push of a button while remaining on his wheelchair. He is accompanied by a personal driver provided by MBPJ who assists him on all duties.
The van however is not only exclusive to him as he said it was one of the initiatives to make the city more disabled friendly, stating that any disabled person in Petaling Jaya has access to it to get around the city. All they had to do is call MBPJ, give them the location and time you would be needing it and they will be there. He also said there are plans to add more vans to make the service more accessible.
The Komunitikini crew was taken on a ride in the van as he explained his usual duties. One of his primary duties is to oversee works, from the completion of planned projects to the quality of existing ones.
We visited Petaling Jaya section 6, which is said to be among the poorer areas in Petaling Jaya. He pointed out that universal sidewalks are already starting to be implemented in these parts of Petaling Jaya as he explained all new sidewalks in PJ must follow the permitted universal sidewalk design.
When asked about the protests by residents of the rebuilding of sidewalks who said it was a waste of money, he said that some people were just inconsiderate. “Some people just want to argue for the sake of it”, he said, stating that disabled people make up at least 10 percent of the population. It was, he said, not a waste of money if it was going to raise their quality of life.
Anthony opined that previously the city ignored the disabled and elderly in its planning.
Apart from making rounds to ensure projects are on their feet, he also does field work with other prominent MBPJ officers as they go knocking on doors every Saturday. He said that this is an active approach to identifying the elderly and disabled people and to engage in conversation with them.
He also stated that once a home is identified to house elderly or disabled people he and his officers will examine the condition of the toilets and if needed MBPJ will renovate their toilets to make them more elderly and disabled friendly. The works will be fully funded by MBPJ.
He added that now all buildings in Petaling Jaya must have MBPJ approved disabled-friendly standards and toilet designs in every building if the plan is to be approved.
The MBPJ clinic which was previously only open to staff now offers free service for the disabled. He also added that a lot of changes have taken place even within MBPJ, from facilities to the top management.
He says MBPJ has become more disabled conscious and friendly from within, which is allowing change to take place in the city. He says that his disability gives people in MBPJ a chance to see a disabled person in real life and it affects people when they make decisions.
He is also working with MBPJ to create a friendlier environment for animals especially dogs. The councillor has been out with local authorities on dogcatching assignments to educate the officers on how the dogs should be treated and the proper way to handle them. He stressed that people need to be informed and educated on these points because a lot of them do not have a clue on how to treat animals.
When asked how he managed to be a councillor and a president of a NGO at the same time, he said that there wasn’t so much of a gap. On the contrary, it has only given him the opportunity to build a bridge between the two entities. Being a councillor, he says, has changed him as a person on how he voices out his opinions, saying it has taught him when to speak and when to remain silent to ensure the best results.
With little more than a week left as a councillor, he says that it has been a great experience to serve the people and to see change take place. He only wishes that the change will continue to take place after he leaves the council, but he says he will still be active and will try to do more with Petpositive.
Due to his aggressive ‘take no prisoners’ approach, some have dubbed Anthony ‘the devil’. Yet most will agree that having such a devil on its back is just what the city requires.