Thursday, August 28, 2008

Merdeka Countdown8: Transportation Policy – Who is in control? Who is in charge?

You drive out from your house to work. You are faced with a huge volume of traffic. Same thing when you are returning home. As long as the traffic is moving and there are no exceptional circumstances to stall the traffic, you understand. But what if there is a traffic jam almost all the time on the same road. Certainly someone should ask why and address the problem.

I am from Penang and it hurts me whenever I go back to the eternally traffic hassled city. I think not much thought has been given to the planning of traffic flow in Penang. It appears to be an island with ad hoc, haphazard development.

Building roads alone will not solve traffic problems. Even the office boy in the Ministry of Transport (MOT) can tell you that. The problem seems to be that even when roads are build, it seems to be done in isolation to all other developments around the roads for the next 10 years. Roads are built for current traffic and a year later another government body approves 100 construction projects of 100 storey flats each! How is it possible for the roads built just a year earlier to service it? So, the problem seems to be the unthinking or incompetent civil servants who cannot seem to project a holistic master plan, etc.

There are many public transportation issues in the country that has escaped the citizen’s eyes. The MOT is in charge of land, air and marine transportation. Of course interlocking with them are other ministries and government departments. Hence, the recent one-stop suggestion for a transportation commission.

Let us look at land. Buses, taxis, LRTs, commuters, trains. Recently, the PM, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi took LRT rides. Good start. Continue with the bus rides and see if the people continue to suffer under inefficient transport system. Then, follow-up with action.

Let us look at marine. The Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal bridge collapse occurred on July 31,1988 at the Sultan Abdul Halim ferry terminal on Butterwoth, Penang, Malaysia. The collapse caused the deaths of 32 people and injured 1,674 people. It was blamed on overcrowding and the jetty being made out of steel bars that led to the collapse。Looking back, was whoever in charge of the terminal incompetent to project potential maximum people traffic?

Remember the ferry to Tioman which was burning in mid-sea on 13th October 2007? 4 passengers died and 99 had to be fished out from sea. The ferry did not have a valid ship and passenger licence for a year! Who is responsible for giving out the licences and are they responsible? Was anyone held accountable and remedial action taken in the system? How is the decision-making process in the entire industry?

When you think transport, a whole host of sectors come to mind – JPJ, enforcers, implementers, decision-makers, etc. If you open your eyes, you will see there is tremendous room for corruption. Is it happening? Is it weakening the system?

This article should not cast any negative aspersions on the current Minister of Transport, Datuk Ong Tee Keat. I have brought transportation problems to him and he has been very swift in action thus far. The honourable Minister is intelligent, hardworking and very approachable. An admirable and humble man. I am more concerned about the civil servant officials. Do they understand the Ministry’s vision and do they assist in the implementation, enforcement and research?

Are they competent? Are they making the right decisions? How does a bona fide, efficient transport operator challenge the decision of the incompetent bureaucrat who makes a decision which destroys his business?

Remember this word: CIVIL SERVANTS. They do greater damage than politicians in many instances. Do they get off their comfy chairs in their air conditioned government offices paid by the Rakyat and solve problems efficiently and judiciously? Are they approachable easily and do they listen? My personal experience with SOME of the higher ranking officials casts doubts in my mind. One high ranking official actually told me this when I questioned his decision in a matter which is clearly economically unsound : “ Ini hak kerajaan untuk buat keputusan”. As a result, almost 26 families continue to suffer! May God forgive him and guide him.

Damn, this traffic jam!


hakimi said...

word of encouragement :

" Surely, with every difficulty there is relief."

surah al-inshirah verse 4 & 5.

Jahaberdeen @ jabar @ jahamy said...


Yup. You have quoted the law of nature. In a sense therefore, some "difficulties" are necessary as a precursor to the relief that follows. Eg. childbirth, change, etc.