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When roads are paved with potholes

If an apology is to be offered for inconvenience caused, it must be offered to all members of the public


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It would have been a ‘normal’ accident when Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin suffered minor injuries recently after hitting a pothole while cycling in Banting, Selangor and fell into a ditch.

After all, like any ordinary mortal, Khairy is not immune to such misadventure. Not that we take his fall lightly.
However, it is the distinct politeness of Kuala Langat Public Works Department to apologise to Khairy over the offending pothole that has raised many an eyebrow.

The PWD came to know of the mishap after the minister tweeted pictures of his bruised face. In response, it tweeted: “Kuala Langat JKR apologises for the incident that befell the minister, will take immediate action over the issue and pray for YB’s speedy recovery.”

The department’s public compassion makes us wonder whether this constitutes part of the so-called new normal where ordinary citizens who are involved in road accidents because of poor road conditions would also be showered with unsolicited apologies.

As it is, social media users have already uploaded photos of various accidents in the past that caused minor injuries, maimed or even death to the victims. These accidents were triggered by dilapidated roads in various parts of the country. They are now demanding similar apologies from the PWD because they felt that offering an apology only to Khairy is unjust. Opposition politicians also waded in and made similar demands.

Apart from the much-publicised apology, the PWD also made a firm commitment to repair immediately the patch where Khairy fell.

The prompt action to fill the pothole in Banting caused many to call on politicians and the PWD to see to it that damaged roads elsewhere are repaired as soon as possible.

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The people’s frustration over delayed road repairs is well reflected by the work done by a road safety advocacy group, Ikatan Silaturahim Brotherhood, led by motorcyclist Azlan Sani Zawawi aka Lando Zawawi. They have voluntarily filled potholes wherever they go since 2011.

This is where Ketari assemblyman Young Syefura Othman took it to the next level. She reportedly offered to tumble over damaged roads as a way to expedite repairs.

While we appreciate her concern, we trust that Syefura would not tumble over excessively at the expense of performing her other duties as the people’s representative.

It appears her initiative is an alternative better than the electorate waiting for a general election or by-elections when many roads are swiftly resurfaced as an indirect way of fishing for votes.

There are a few things we can take away from this incident.

One, government departments should not practise double standards. If an apology is to be offered for inconvenience caused, it must be offered to all members of the public, particularly all road users. In a society where the odds are generally stacked against the poor, the less fortunate and the marginalised, instances of giving preferences to the well-heeled, the well-connected and VIPs easily spark the ire of the ordinary people.

Two, road repairs should not wait for a minister or other VIPs to fall and suffer injuries, and members of the public should not be left to negotiate potholes while waiting for a Yang Berhormat to fall. As is the standard operating procedure, repairs are to be done as soon as possible for the welfare of the ordinary people.

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Three, political leaders would have a better understanding of and empathy towards challenges faced by ordinary folk in their everyday life if they cycle for recreation and exercise or take public transport to work. In this way, they avoid the possibility of being divorced from social reality.

Four, road accidents are not necessarily only due to road users’ negligence. The Ministry of Transport should be concerned about this scenario.

Prioritising people’s needs and safety should not be a road less travelled.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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