Newly minted Federal Territories Minister Shahidan Kassim suddenly found himself inundated by calls from the public after he volunteered to reveal his phone number for anyone to contact him about potholes in Kuala Lumpur.
The Arau MP also shared in Parliament the phone numbers of his deputy Jalaluddin Alias and KL mayor Mahadi Che Ngah, in response to a query posed by Batu MP P Prabakaran regarding the problem of potholes on KL roads.
It seems that the minister desires to be a man of the people, responsive to their immediate needs.
But he has now called on the public to send text messages instead, as it is obviously impossible for him to respond to all of those calls at the same time.
Although his initiative may have been well intended, his move to directly receive public complaints has serious implications. For one thing, this implies that officers from City Hall who are assigned to deal with roadworks, have not been doing their work satisfactorily.
If this is the case – and it looks like some roads have not been maintained properly judging by the numerous calls – then Shahidan would need to instruct, say, the mayor to subject the officers concerned to a dressing down.
It should be a standard operating procedure of City Hall officers to continually monitor the state of Kuala Lumpur roads, among many other things.
The minister should not have to dirty his hands, so to speak, to ensure that public complaints are attended to as soon as possible. Otherwise, he would find himself preoccupied with personally attending to a variety of public complaints, which would eat into his time to perform his official duties as a minister.
Mind you, we are only talking about public complaints in Kuala Lumpur here. What about Putrajaya and Labuan, which are also federal territories? Shouldn’t the minister attend to public complaints from there as well?
As a member of Parliament, he should try to stay away from doing the kind of work that comes under the purview of local governments, such as sorting out clogged drains or fallen trees on the road. To be sure, MPs such as Shahidan should devote themselves to policymaking instead of indulging in council work.
Shahidan should make known to the public his policies pertaining to the federal territories that would have an impact on the wellbeing of residents, business concerns and the environment.
For instance, concerned Kuala Lumpur residents may want to know how Shahidan plans to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. What strategies would he adopt to encourage people to use public transport as a step to reducing air pollution and traffic congestion?
How would Shahidan’s ideas contribute towards making the federal territories more liveable? Would he create more public parks and preserve more green areas? How would he make public housing for low-income households more accessible, with better facilities?
Would he encourage active public consultation through town hall meetings before any development project that would affect the surrounding environment and people is carried out?
On the matter of potholes, it may warrant the authorities concerned to look beyond merely plugging the gaps. City Hall may want to examine whether the roads constructed have really attained the required standards to ensure they last longer.
Certain roads may not be suitable for the use of heavy vehicles, in which case there ought to be a law against the use of such vehicles on these roads. If there is already such a law, the enforcement agencies should ensure it is the law is strictly enforced.
It is obvious that the minister’s portfolio should not include plugging potholes. – The Malaysian Insight