Growing a sense of local community in the three Federal Territories


SIXTEEN years ago, when Ahmad Shaari decided to move into the Seri Malaysia people's housing project (PPR), a low-cost government housing scheme in Taman Desa Petaling, Kuala Lumpur, his primary goal was to provide for his wife and five children with a healthy and clean environment to live and grow up in.

Having spent most of his own childhood and youth in a kampung with limited amenities, Ahmad aspired to offer his children a better life.

Now the 65-year-old, with three of his children married and living elsewhere, believes that his decision to move into the government housing scheme over a decade ago was the right one.

"While the PPR has its shortcomings, such as being cramped and crowded, and sometimes dirty, I have grown to love my home," Ahmad said.

"We have learned to adapt and make the best of our situation by embracing change and developing a sense of belonging for this place."

PPR Seri Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur is one of the government housing schemes built for city residents.PPR Seri Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur is one of the government housing schemes built for city residents.

A sense of belonging refers to the feelings of being accepted, valued, and connected to a particular group, community, or society.

Studies have shown that feelings of being part of a community or group contributes to a person’s overall self-esteem, well-being and mental health, while experiencing a lack of belonging is linked to stress, illness, reduced well-being, and depression.

Feeling disconnected can lead to a sense of being lost and isolated, which is particularly daunting, especially for children.

Ahmad believes that his decision to move into PPR Seri Malaysia over a decade ago was the right one.Ahmad believes that his decision to move into PPR Seri Malaysia over a decade ago was the right one.

Ahmad pointed out that in order to create a happy and vibrant living environment one must develop a sense of belonging for the place.

“Once you have that feeling that this is your forever home, where you want to put down your roots, you can easily foster that love for your home and the Muhibbah spirit,’’ he said.

Rajendran Raju, 42, a long-time resident of the PPR who shared Ahmad's sentiments, added that every resident must play a role in cultivating this sense of belonging.

A group of children play hopscotch in an open area of a government housing scheme - PPR Seri Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.A group of children play hopscotch in an open area of a government housing scheme - PPR Seri Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

"When we all play our part, only then you will feel it (a sense of belonging), and cultivate the setting for a healthy and harmonious living environment,’’ he said.

"As a registered councillor, I play my part by offering counseling services to those in need, including teenagers and anyone who requires some encouragement. We try to help wherever we can."

Rajendran Raju, 42, a long-time resident of the PPR who shared Ahmad's sentiments,   added that every resident must play a role in cultivating this sense of belonging.Rajendran Raju, 42, a long-time resident of the PPR who shared Ahmad's sentiments, added that every resident must play a role in cultivating this sense of belonging.

Rajendran further highlighted the importance of a supportive network within the PPR, consisting of groups like the PPR Seri Malaysia Residents Association (RA) and PPR Seri Malaysia Kawasan Rukun Tetangga (KRT).

These groups, he said, provide a platform for residents to seek assistance in case of any issues in the PPR.

“There is great benefit when you have a community that supports one another, fostering neighborliness and trust," Rajendran said.

For Putrajaya resident, Maimunah Ismail, 55, fostering a sense of responsibility involves instilling civic mindedness within one self and encouraging resident participation in the city.

“Personally, for me, caring for public facilities, participating in recycling initiatives, and volunteering in community activities like ‘gotong-royong’ is what makes me a responsible citizen,’’ she said.

Putrajaya resident Mohana Priya said being a responsible citizen is having some initiative instead of only relying on the authorities.Putrajaya resident Mohana Priya said being a responsible citizen is having some initiative instead of only relying on the authorities.

Similarly, for 37-year-old Mohana Priya Pathmanathan, who has been living in Putrajaya for nine years, being a responsible citizen means taking it upon oneself to fix broken facilities instead of expecting the authorities to do so.

“If we can fix it, we should. I believe we should only report to the authorities if we cannot do it ourselves,’’ she said.

Labuan is a treasure trove of beaches and other attractions.Labuan is a treasure trove of beaches and other attractions.

For Labuan resident, Muhammad Faizal Abdullah, 39, being a good citizen means being respectful and having good ethics.

“This to me is being respectful to one another, being responsible towards public facilities and having good ethics like good road ethics,’’ he said.

Labuan resident Muhammad Faizal believes that being a good citizen involves showing respect, responsibility toward public facilities, and practicing good ethics.Labuan resident Muhammad Faizal believes that being a good citizen involves showing respect, responsibility toward public facilities, and practicing good ethics.

As the Federal Territories approaches its 50th anniversary, it is a time for celebration and reflection on the progress made in becoming responsible and civic-minded citizens of the city.

Azman Abidin, a resident of Bandar Tun Razak, proudly reflected on his experiences growing up in different housing settings in the past five decades.

Having lived in a Pantai Dalam squatter area, and later a government housing scheme, a private apartment, and eventually settling in a landed property, Azman, 52, understands the challenges associated with each segment.

He believes in educating and raising awareness, particularly among the younger generation, about the importance of community engagement and civic responsibility.

“Take the facilities in a PPR, a park, playground, ‘rumah sampah’ (refuse house), rivers and whatnot, everyone regardless of where they live or the type of housing accommodation they are living in, must contribute to the preservation of public property and facilities,’’ he said.

PPR Seri Malaysia Resident Association chairman Nur Zaidy Maaini, 45, echoed similar sentiment, emphasising the need to care for facilities such as lifts, parks, and playgrounds is a collective responsibility of everyone.

According to Nur Zaidy, neglecting these amenities would result in an alienated community who does not care about the deteriorating conditions of their home, nor care about the welfare of their families and neighbours.

“If everyone does their part, I guarantee a happier, healthier, and more engaged community," Nur Zaidy said.

Each year, the Federal Territories celebrate Federal Territory Day on Feb 1 to commemorate the declaration of Kuala Lumpur (Feb 1, 1974), Labuan (April 16, 1984) and Putrajaya (Feb 1, 2001) as a federal territory.

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the federal territories. For five decades, the citizens of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan have witnessed and experienced the various developments the government has offered.

Although the Federal Territories no longer have a ministry, the restructured Federal Territories Department remains committed to advancing the prosperity and wellbeing of its inhabitants. Now operating under the supervision of the Prime Minister’s Department, the agency’s primary objective is to ensure the wellbeing of its residents.

To enhance the social safety net of the residents, the department will continue in its efforts to strengthen and expand various initiatives for the benefit of its residents community such as MyGrocer@Wilayah, MyMedic@Wilayah, MySchoolBus@Wilayah, MyJob@Wilayah,MyFood@Wilayah,affordable housing, better intercity public transportation and many more.

While there is no doubt that there are residents living in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan who are committed to creating a happy and vibrant living environment which stems from their strong sense of belonging, it is essential that everyone play their part in creating a cohesive and harmonious atmosphere within their respective neighborhoods.

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