Dozens of disabled people visited President Suslio Bambang Yudhoyono during an “open house” event on Idul Fitri, but many left disappointed after they were unable to speak to him.
Yadi Nuryadi, 29, a former truck driver for a mining company in South Kalimantan, wanted to use the State Palace event to tell the president he needed a prosthetic limb to be able to work.
“I did not have a chance to say anything,” Yadi said, after only getting a brief opportunity to shake hands with Yudhoyono.
“It is important for me to have a comfortable prosthetic leg. If I can get one, I can work well. But people were lining up behind me so I couldn’t ask the president to help me.”
Despite not being able to speak to Yudhoyono, he felt fortunate to have shaken hands with him and intended to try again next year.
“The president only said ‘please be careful on the way home,’ ” Yadi said. But he was grateful for the Rp 200,000 ($23) in cash given to him by palace officials at the event.
Yadi, who lost one of his legs in a motorcycle accident in his hometown of Majalengka in West Java in 2006, is now living in a nursing home for the disabled in Cengkareng, Jakarta.
“I will only return to my hometown if I get a new leg,” he said. “I really wish I had one so I could work again as a driver.”
Laode Muhammad, a palace visitor who has been disabled since birth, also expressed his disappointment with the meeting.
“I wanted to say a word or two, but people behind me were pushing me,” Laode said. “I wanted to tell the president to pay more attention to the disabled in Jakarta so that they do not live as beggars, to give them work.”
Laode, who has only one leg, came to Jakarta from Sulawesi after he and his wife divorced. He now gives massages and supports the disabled through a nongovernmental organization.
He waited for two hours to speak to Yudhoyono, but was only told “Happy Lebaran” by the president.
Laode, who claimed two envelopes, each containing Rp 200,000, said he also will return to the palace next Idul Fitri and hopes to be able to then convey his message.
Not all of the disabled went to the palace hoping to talk to the president. Some were satisfied by the handshake.
“In my lifetime, this is the first time I could feel the warmth of the president’s hand,” said Indah, a blind woman from Ciputat. “I’m going to use the money for my basic daily needs.”
Her friend, Sinta, who has been visiting the palace for years on Idul Fitri, said this year’s open house was better managed than previous ones.
She said a friend of hers had been caught in the crush at last year’s palace event.
Olim Sukmajaya, who is also blind, had left his house in Bogor at 10 a.m. in order to be able to shake Yudhoyono’s hand .
“It touched me deeply,” he said of the handshake.
Eko and his wife Desi, from Cijantung in East Jakarta, waited since 10 a.m. to enter the palace.
“I only got a snack. The money for blind people is limited, so not everyone got some. Last year I received Rp 100,000.”
Three other blind people — Ari, Heru and his wife Linda, who had all come from Pondok Labu, South Jakarta — also had to be content with the boxes of snacks but were still thankful for being able to shake the president’s hand.
Additional reporting by Chrestella Tan