How to maintain your parentsPosted: December 12, 2011
I was listening to the radio, chinese channel 98.8, the other day, when I heard some snippets of an earlier call-in session that caught my attention. The radio station replayed some of the comments that callers made to an issue that was being discussed on air. One of these comments, more or less, went something like this:
“In a place like KL, someone with a wife and kids can barely survive with RM3000 per month. Let’s say they give their parents RM100 each month. What if the parents complain that this is not enough, and sue their children?”
At that point in time, what piqued my curiosity was that I didn’t know what issue they were discussing that warranted a comment like that. Why would parents sue their children over how much money was given to them each month? And on what basis would these parents press charges?
That’s how I found out about Karpal Singh’s proposal to the Parliament that a law to protect parents from being abandoned by their children.
There isn’t much in the news about this proposal. From what little that I have read about it, Karpal made this proposal in view of the results of the Fourth Malaysia Population and Family Survey, which stated that one in every 3 senior citizens are abandoned by their children.
Now, one in three is a very steep figure. It’s one that prompts us to rethink our so-called “Asian values” and how important parents really are in that set of values. As Asians, we practically pride ourselves over our filial piety and how much more we appreciate and take care of our parents, compared to our Western counterparts. The statistics tell a whole different story to what we have, or well, I have, always believed in.
It’s not to say that I believe in fairy tales where all adult children are play their filial roles, and all elderly citizens are kept happy and well-fed till the end of their days. I personally know of people who would gamble away all their earnings, and still have the guts to come home and ask for money from their retired parents instead. But I also know of people who slave their butts off just to make ends meet, and the only contribution they can afford is a to give their parents a roof over their heads.
It goes to say that “abandonment” is a very strong word, and the news piece I read did not state the definition used by the survey. If children pay for their parents to live in old folks’ homes, but never go visiting ever, are these senior citizens being abandoned? Similarly, if children live with their parents under one roof, and all their food and clothes are paid for, but they just don’t get any cash, would that be defined as “abandon”, seeing as there is no financial support?
No doubt, there are similar laws in other countries like the one he is proposing. In Singapore, the Maintenance of Parents Act allows parents to make “maintenance claims”. In India and Taiwan, parent abandonment is punishable by way of hefty fines and even imprisonment.
It’s just a little disturbing to think that filial piety and “parent maintenance” is something that we need to enforce by law. I for one had grown up thinking that it’s something you do to pay your parents back for all their love and time and effort. It’s even more disturbing now to find out that not only are there other countries that implement such a law, the examples I’ve found are all Asian countries who boast of “Asian values”.
Back to the comment made by the caller. It’s a little far-fetched, I think, to suppose that parents would sue their children over money. But in the world that we’re living in today, and especially because the caller specifically mentioned KL, there really might be such people. And then what do we do?