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Struggle to Overcome Prejudice Against Leprosy : A Malaysian Success Story

The ‘Struggle to Overcome Prejudice Against Leprosy : A Malaysian Success Story” is the title of a coffee table book produced by the Malaysian Leprosy Relief Association of Malaysia (MaLRA) on how MaLRA struggled over 50 years to overcome the prejudice against the leprosy patients, as well as the cured leprosy patients.

In this book, the editor Dato’ Sri J J Raj (Jr), the Executive Secretary General describes the scourge of leprosy, which has afflicted mankind for over 5000 years, and how leprosy reached the shores of the Malay Peninsular some 300 years ago.

The editor describes the scenario during the Colonial period, when leprosy during that time was incurable and contagious, how those poor wretched persons suffering from the scourge of leprosy were forcibly isolated, treated as sub-human beings and put in leprosy settlements, and there to wither and die, as there was then no cure at all for leprosy.

Fortunately, after 5000 years during which time, there was absolutely no cure and the patients just withered and died a lingering death, the breakthrough came. The breakthrough came in the 1860s and it took another 70 years for the drug to be perfected, and by the 1940s the leprosy patients at Sungei Buloh were created with the new ‘miracle’ drugs. With the advents of the Multi Drug Therapy (M.D.T) leprosy is now a curable disease.

The editor describes that, though the scourge of leprosy is now curable, there still remains in the minds of the general population in Malaysia the phobia of leprosy, resulting in the cured leprosy patients being shunned and ostracized by Malaysia Society.

Nevertheless, as the idiom “every dark cloud has a silver lining”, goes there were caring Malaysians who took on the challenge, and a small group of dedicated persons formed the Malaysia Leprosy Relief Association (MaLRA) with the basic aim of providing financial relief to these unfortunate people, and simultaneously with confidence building to assist them into being accepted by Society.

Readers of this book may wonder how MaLRA formed hardly 50 years back, and with Branches in almost all States of Malaysia had been able to gradually change the mind-set of most Malaysians on the phobia of leprosy.
MaLRa has succeeded in doing the impossible. It has been successful in changing the negative attitudes of most Malaysians against the cured leprosy patients, a seemingly impossible task. It is now normal and routine for ex-leprosy patients and their families to be invited by MaLRA to five stat hotels to functions during festivals, where hampers, cash donations, and other useful items are presented to them by well known personalities and even Royalty.

This book is available at the National library, and some Universities. However, non governmental organizations and others wishing to obtain a copy of this coffee book, may write to the MaLRA Secretariat.

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