Air Bags & Road Taxes


Read these first:-

(Go buy a Proton instead – compared to a “more value for money” brands like Honda, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Proton is using airbags from Autoliv from Sweden which does not have the same problem as Takata from Japan and is more reliable. Image source: LA Times)

One particular night a few weeks ago, I was driving back from work – the weather was good and the traffic was not so bad.

In front of me, a fairly new Toyota Vios – it has the rear lights working and I did not suspect anything. Then I noticed something amiss. Whenever the traffic slows down, I don’t see any brake lights lighting up from the Toyota Vios. Both the main brake lights and the third brake light were not working. So, when this driver slams his brakes and if you are at the back and you been driving too close, you will not know that the car in front had slowed down – you will likely to rear-end the idiot in front.

Considering the worst case scenario, I kept my distance before deciding that I cannot continue to play Russian roulette with the driver in front. I would never know when he will hit his brakes and I will be rear-ending him. I decided to overtake the driver and once I had gone ahead of him, I saw a middle aged man behind the wheels driving around without any care about other road users. It is obvious that he did not give a damn about the condition of his car too.

Don’t these people check their equipment before they head out? I periodically will check my lights – brake, indicators and fog lights even though the same is done by the mechanics whenever I sent the car for its periodic service.

It is a fact that there are way too many morons driving around with “defective” indicators – even for brand new cars (read my post on this). Defective brake lights are a bit rarer but then again, this is not the first time I see cars with faulty brake lights – they don’t seems to care if the traffic behind them would be alerted and to stop in time. It is another case of “Tidak Apa” which is very famous among Malaysians. Another case that compounds the sickness of this attitude is where the same lazy Malaysians wait till the last seconds before they act on it. You have seen this before – income tax submission, paying fines, changing to the new identification card, etc.

Case of “Tidak Apa” – that was the first thing that came in my mind when I read that the new Minister of Transport (bless the good man) decided to tackle this nuisance:-

Vehicle owners affected by the recall of faulty Takata airbags will not be able to renew their road tax until a replacement has been made, said Anthony Loke Siew Fook.

The Transport Minister said the new directive will take effect next Monday (June 4), adding that all affected vehicle owners must obtain a certificate from their respective car dealership to prove that they have changed their airbags.

Loke said that car companies involved in the global mandatory recall of Takata airbags must submit a list of vehicles which haven’t replace their airbags to the Road Transport Department (JPJ).

“We will input the list of all vehicles that have not changed their airbags into our system. I have also directed JPJ not to renew the road tax of these vehicles unless they replaced their airbags.

(Source)

In case you have kept your head in the ground, people have died from these faulty airbags and yet some people have been sitting on this time bomb as if it will not affect them. I know for certain Toyota and Honda had been making announcements after announcements and sending thousands of letters & notices and yet there are still plenty of the jokers still driving around with faulty airbags, waiting to blow and take half of their face off. Of course, they had their excuses – the service center had run out of replacement airbags, they had sold off the car to another (so it is no more their problem) or they have moved to another address (so they are not aware of the letters and notices).

For this, I have to say “Come on lah! The issue of recalls due to faulty airbag supplied by Takata is not something new”.

In fact, the issue with defective airbag was first raised back in 2013 and Takata eventually went bankrupt:-

In 2013, a series of deaths and injuries associated with defective Takata airbag inflators had led Takata to initially recall 3.6 million cars equipped with such airbags. Further fatalities caused by the airbags have led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to order an ongoing, nationwide recall of more than 42 million cars, the largest automotive recall in U.S. history.

(Source)

The idea of stopping people from renewing their road tax until they get their faulty airbag fixed is the best idea that the authorities had implemented. Thank God we voted in the Pakatan Harapan government and we got new Ministers who at least think before acting. Of course, this idea of stopping people from renewing their road tax until they get their faulty airbag fixed did not go well for some people (I have to assume that it must be the same people who do things at the very last minute).

Interestingly the Minister is aware that some people are not happy with the decision – they say that this move is unfair and it slaps them that Pakatan Harapan government is the same in form as the previous BN government.

He plainly said this:-

“If they want to complain about me making their lives troublesome by having to go through a tedious process, let them do so. I would rather be complained at than visit another victim of an accident that could have been avoided in the first place,” he said

(Source)

I strongly agree with the Minister –further the previous BN minister did not do much to force this safety initiative on the defective air-bag replacement through.

Another argument is that the car manufacturers did not have enough Takata replacement air-bags despite the urgency. It is possible in the past but it is up to the car owners to keep pressing the car companies to keep enough stock and ensure their defective airbag replaced.

Just like any other defective parts in the car that impacts your personal safety – if your local car service center says that they don’t have the parts now, do you wait and consider the matter as solved? Or it will continue to bug you every second and you will look for another service center that may has the part? And even if they don’t have stock in place, it does not mean one should take a seat back and wait for someone to lay the red carpet, do they?

That’s why I would say that the Hons Minister’s idea of using the road tax renewal as a mean of enforcement tools to force the defective air bag as soon as possible is a brilliant one. Moving forward, I think it should be extended to those vehicles with defective brake lights too.

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Dashcams: Another Source for Enforcement


Let’s start with some interesting videos



The above videos, whilst may seemed impressive demonstrates how some morons rather endanger other road users so that they can have cheap thrills on the road. Why they can’t book the racing track for a day and burn rubbers to their heart’s content?

While the country may be buzzing with the findings by the PAC on 1MDB, the Citizen Declaration and now the “admission” from the Saudi Foreign Minister (is it?). For me, it is a foregone conclusion. It is rather pointless to talk about accountability, transparency and responsibility at this point of time. After all, it is now argued that putting signature on a formal document does not mean you know what is happening and as such you are not liable. Didn’t I say that the whole affair is a foregone conclusion? Now the focus would be on the upcoming Sarawak Elections and one hopes that the voters would be able to see beyond the sweet promises to do this and that and look at what is best for the nation in the long run.

Anyway if you have not been busy keeping up with the local political circus, you would have heard that the Government is fine tuning the enforcement of traffic laws in the country. Finally something worth the taxpayers money and time. Firstly as many of the “good things” that they have done in the past, they looked what they had in their pockets and decided to merge and RENAME them (effectiveness comes much later):-

The Automated Enforcement System (AES) will be merged with the Kejara demerit system and renamed as AWAS (Awareness Automated Safety System).

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai (pic), who disclosed this, said this was to ensure a more holistic approach to reduce the number of road accidents.

“Whether you pay your fines or not, your marks will still be deducted if you are found to have committed a traffic offence,” he said during an interview on TV3 last night.

(Source)

Hmmm, that sounded fair enough but it only addresses the punishment aspect of the traffic law and not the enforcement. Still, it is a start. If you are caught, you will be slapped with both fine and demerit points but you need to be caught in the first place. No word on increasing the number of AES cameras in this country – just 14 of them and I know for sure that most motorists well behave before they pass the AES camera and become a speed demon once they have passed it. What about drivers who are driving dangerously, abuse the emergency lanes, changing lanes without any indicators and use vehicles are not safe to be on the road (I even saw a police car last night without any rear nights on).

Then there was more news on the traffic law fines (which did not go well with the police’s earlier plans to increase the fine):-

The Ministry of Transport is proposing to reduce the rate of traffic summons from RM300 to RM150 for certain traffic offences, said its Deputy Minister Datuk Ab Aziz Kaprawi.

He said, however the proposal must be approved by the Cabinet and amendments to the Road Transport Act 1987 must be made before implementing it.

“It is still a proposal between the ministry and the government for certain offences with a certain time period given, for instance RM150 must be paid within six months, if they fail to do so, the amount would be increased, you delay, you pay more,” he told reporters at Parliament lobby here today.

(Source)

Seriously I don’t get the rationale to go soft on traffic law offenders by giving huge discounts, cooling off period, close of one eyes and reduction of the fine for some traffic laws? Didn’t they break the law in the first place? Didn’t they cause inconvenience to others (imagine the idiots who double parked and blocked the roads? We don’t have huge trucks to plough our way through) or those had posed serious danger to other road users (and themselves)?

One ex-IGP even went on to say this:-

Given the gloomy economic outlook with many Malaysians struggling with higher living costs and the threat of layoffs loom for many job sectors, the IGP’s threat to hit motorists where it hurts most – their wallets, seem like an inspired approach to tackle the perennial problem of traffic accidents and fatalities.

This move, as expected are not well received by the public saying that it is a burden with the current economy situation.

In a phone interview with Malaysian Digest, former IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan expressed his opinion that the move is untimely.“I think with the current high cost of living the suggestion is not relevant. Imposing higher fines now is like pouring fuel on a fire.” – Former IGP Tan Sri
Musa Hassan

“I think with the current high cost of living the suggestion is not relevant. Imposing higher fines now is like pouring fuel on a fire.

“Because it will cause resentment from the people,” he pointed out.

(Source)

Sorry to say this but the traffic fines are not taxes. It is not GST. It is imposed on people who break the traffic laws. If they feel that it is going to be a burden in this current economy situation then they should abide by the traffic laws, follow the speed limit, they should use the indicators when changing lane, they should drive responsively, blah, blah. No one forces the traffic fines down their throat. The opposition morons used to say the same thing.

The problem in Malaysia have always been enforcement, enforcement and enforcement.

I have wrote on enforcement in the past (no point repeating them again in detail here) and you can read them here:-

Some of the hardcore traffic offenders know that the enforcement is seriously lacking and it takes months or even years before the law comes to collect the unpaid summonses (by then, there will be a huge discount waiting for them). Some politicians will capitalise on the situation and argue that the fines / punishment are burdensome to the people and the whole strict enforcement would be on hold until further studies are made. This is the wrong way to do it.

Strict enforcement is the only way to do it.

Start off with AES cameras – so far it has been very effective and operates 24 x 7, rain or shine and it had done a good job to date (almost 2 million summonses issued). The present 14 AES cameras are simply not enough. Then the enforcement on the ground need to be revamped as well – if you break the law, you have to pay for the consequences.

In addition to AES, there is another source for enforcement – dash cams (either from law abiding road users or from the traffic offenders themselves). Look at the videos in the beginning post again. Don’t you think there is enough video evidence to book some of the thrill seekers who treat the public road as their own personal race track, oblivious of the danger posed to other road users? Start looking into this angle as well as another mean to identify traffic offenders and coming hard, very hard on them.

Don’t give discounts, don’t treat these traffic fines like some mandatory tax that is burdening some poor souls out there – it will not help to reduce number of traffic laws broken but instead will only encourage them. Besides, some of these traffic offenders are driving cars that costs more than what an average Joe earns the whole year.

The Fight Against Crime


cctv--crime-prevention_52f8d4695a85f_w1500

(It always pays to have another set of eyes on the street for catch criminals in their act. The role of CCTVs in prevention of crime cannot be dismissed – it works 24 by 7 and 365 days without taking rest and it is impartial too. Infographic source: http://visual.ly)

The month April proving to be an interesting month for me

We have walked into the age of GST and the night before was rather comical – I saw a family piling up their grocery items onto the trolley to the brim. Didn’t they know that naturally there will be some items which will see the price going down with GST and there will be some with increased price?

The issues that will come with the introduction of GST maybe too early to comment. It is one good way to ensure that the Government gets its money for the development of the country. After all the, the oil and gas industry is not doing well and hence there would be less income for the Government. But there will be issues, no doubt especially with how the Government will be using the money from the GST collected (hope they will not be buying new plane and politicians taking too many overseas trips). I hope they don’t shoot themselves in the leg by imposing GST but at the same time, maintain their lavish lifestyle, wastage and unnecessary overseas trips.

Anyway, let’s move on with another news. Amidst the arrests a number of journalists recently and many arguments for and against hudud, PAS finally asked the right question:-

PAS Selangor Youth, claimed in a statement on Wednesday that hudud was the answer to the rising crime rate in the country and if DAP, for one, was against the punishment, it should counter-propose solutions.

(Source)

Finally an intelligent question and it should be interesting to see how DAP counter propose solutions to fight crime in this country. Actually it is a good question for any political party out there and citizens who may not agree that we need another set of laws in this country to fight country. If you ask me, there are couple of things can be done or rather, should be revisited.

For start, how about re-looking into how we can tighten up the security and vetting of “visitors” coming into the country, not for business or pleasure but rather for a more sinister reasons:-

A 45-year-old commandant of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) was detained by the Malaysian Police Counter Terrorism unit in Kuala Lumpur on January 31. Intelligence sources said the man from the Middle East who arrived here mid-January was detained at a four-star hotel near Bukit Bintang

(Source)

In the past, the police have arrested a number of foreigners involved in terrorism. How they managed to slip into the country unnoticed?

And if you have read the previous blog posts, enough have probably been said on the so-called Nigerian “students” who end up caught for drug related offences. The same have been mentioned on the Iranians. And before that, the many illegal Indonesians and Filipinos. Things have improved especially with the creation of MMEA and the establishment of ESSZONE and the biometrics exercise. But there are still areas that need to be improved especially with the foreigners coming in from the Thailand and via KLIA2. Still remember the famed Latin American criminals?

And since early 2014, we had Operation Cantas which proves rather success:-

Police arrested 44,343 suspects in ‘Op Cantas Khas’ until Dec 31, last year since the nationwide special anti-crime operation was launched on Aug 17. Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the operation obviously had positive results, whereby the crime index dropped by 4.3 per cent.

(Source)

Then there was a glimpse of “hope” when the government announced this:-

If you buy a motorcycle for your son and he rides it without a licence, you will now have to pay a RM300 fine. On top of that, your son will be fined RM300 for the offence — which obviously you have to pay. If you are unable to pay the RM600, the police keeps the bike.

The new ruling which comes into force on February 2, will affect thousands of parents who buy small motorcycles for their children to go to school. These students have been involved in minor accidents that go unreported and are also known to have joined Mat Rempit in illegal road races.

(Source)

Interestingly I almost knock down 2 boys on the motorcycle, clearly under aged and not wearing helmet and was riding on the wrong side of the road. No police around to catch these pests and get their parents down to the station. And last week, I was on the way back from donating blood and I used the Federal Highway and traffic was heavy as usual. My dad was sitting next to me and remarked that it was an unnecessary traffic jam and he was right. One main reason there was a traffic jam was due to the shameless idiots who use the emergency lane and cuts into the main lane.

Obviously we cannot expect the police to be around at all places and time. There are better things for them to do. There was a dire shortage of men in blue as well.

The IGP reckons that the force need to recruit between 6,000 and 7,000 new personnel every year. He even said that the country need more policemen to effectively carry out policing matters nationwide. That is a valid point – without enough men on the ground, policing would certainly be less effective. But moving forward, it was disappointing to hear the same IGP despite the dire shortage of men in the force, he rather harp on monitoring the social medias.

Yes, he may not have meant it that way but certainly his statement in light of crime and shortage of men did not go well with most Malaysians. This perception need to be changed drastically. The police can still keep their monitoring over the social media but let a specialised team in cyber laws to police to do it. Does it really need an IGP to do the monitoring himself? That is certainly not the right allocation of resources. The IGP has better things to do, I am sure.

And to help with the shortage of men in blue, the local authorities (instead of private companies, to avoid argument of cronyism) can further assist by installing more CCTVs at key areas and do the monitoring on behalf.

In that sense, AES would have greatly help to enforce the traffic laws. But no thanks to the oppositions who barked on the wrong issue and a government with a flip-flop mind, enforcement via AES was put on hold. That was a wrong move indeed. They should bring back the enforcement by AES and by a greater number. This will assist the police to reallocate resources for other work.

We don’t need another law but we certainly need to improve on how we enforce the law. That is what is more important. That is what the country needs. And that’s where we need to focus our energy, time and resources on.

Speed Demons on Highway 2


(There is always a limit to everything we do and a limit to speeding is there for obvious reasons. Slow down and you will live longer. Some idiots would never learn no matter what happens when one speeds over the speed limit on the highway)

Driving on Malaysian highways often promises a good story for this blog and it is the case for this week and one that deal with speed demons on highways. About 9 years ago, I had a close encounter with a speed demon and a recent trip north saw  another close encounter with another speed demon.

But first read this first:-

At least 37 people were killed when a bus in a mountainous area of Malaysia plunged into a ravine on Wednesday, the country’s Bernama news agency said, citing rescue officials. There also were 16 people injured, and they were sent to hospitals, the report said.

There were 53 people on board. Among the dead were Bangladeshi, Thai and Chinese nationals. The bus driver also died. The bus was descending from Genting Highlands when it fell into a 200-feet-deep ravine, Bernama reported. The incident occurred near the capital, Kuala Lumpur.

(Source)

Back in August last year, the country saw one of the worst accident relating to express buses. Before that, back in 2011, there was another horrible accident involving express/tour buses where 28 people perished. And beginning this year when it comes to express buses, it was not good news either:-

Three people died and at least 14 injured when an express bus they were travelling in crashed at KM107.2 of the North-South Expressway, from Pagoh to Yong Peng today. The bus driver was believed to have lost control of the vehicle, causing it to crash into a railing and landing at the side of the highway at about 2pm.

The Star Online reported that the bus was travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Johor with 17 passengers, including a number of foreigners. Two men and a 10-year-old boy were killed while seven passengers suffered serious injuries.

(Source)

Last weekend, we had to do a quick trip up North and it was sort of a last minute decision.

My mother in law was not well and my wife despite postponing the call to go and visit her somehow knew that time was up to visit her mother. So instead of going during CNY when one can expect sheer madness on highways, we decided to go one week earlier and come back the very next day. The highway was almost empty and we actually had empty tables at the famed R&R. There was the usual big bike convoys dominating the fast lane and having little care for the 110 km/h speed limit. The same went to Singapore registered cars – they were driving on the fast lane like they were on a private race track. The same also went to those with luxury car where the RM300 ticket for speeding would hardly made any dent on their pockets.

It was not the first time I encounter them but I seriously think that some of the idiots who uses the highway should be barred from using vehicles for life. I mean if they are bloody ignorant of the law, then at least they should have some common sense. They would either drive above the speed limit like their back is on fire (or hog the fast lane) and when confronted with another faster vehicle, they would dash into the slower lane without sense of space or the courtesy to put on the indicators to warn the slower traffic on the left. Some would cut in too close for comfort, completely ignoring the fact that there is another vehicle on the slow lane.

Then towards Ipoh, we saw something that left us speechless. There was a car overtook us on the fast lane and I know it was driven above the speed limit (I was already driving at 110 km/h then). Following just behind that speeding car is a police car but that too is driven above the speed limit. Well, I am fine with that but what irked me was that the police did nothing to pull over the speeding car and give the driver a speeding ticket. Perhaps the policeman had a bad stomach ache and rushing to the nearest toilet. Perhaps. But then again, it sends the wrong message and if the enforcement agencies keeps one eyes closed, you can be assured that there would not be the end of fiery deaths on the highway.

The stay with the in-laws was pretty short (it usually do, ha ha) but enough for me to take a good break for the trip back. My wife had fulfilled her part of the obligation and that was good enough, at least for now. The next day as usual we decided to leave early to KL. My sister in law and her 2 year old daughter followed us back and since there was plenty of space in my car, we were more than happy to accommodate them. I hardly drove more than 90 km/h and kept to the 110 km/h speed limit at certain part of the highway. And with a good selection of songs in my flash drive, it was a relaxing ride back.

aeroline_speeding2

(It took mere minutes for these 2 buses – there is another in front of this bus – to disappear from my sight despite we were traveling at about 110 km/h)

Some kilometers before Behrang (about 11.20 am on Sunday), I noticed something on my rear mirrors – not one but two speeding high deck express buses (High deck just like the high deck bus where 28 people died back in 2011). Knowing on how they usually fly through on the fast lane (and sometimes on the slow lane, adding the risks to other road users), I maintained on the middle lane and I was already cruising at 100 – 110 km/h. The first bus (Aeroline) bus flies through on the slow lane and quickly cut into the middle lane, a few paces in front of me. The second bus came right behind my car in the middle lane and started to flash his headlights (if we has stopped, I would bashed his head for coming up so close, endangering me and my family and flashing his headlights like a big dirty bully). He was trying to bully me to move over from the middle lane but since it was not safe to move over, I continued to drive on the middle lane, hoping that the idiot would move over on the fast lane. After all, he was faster than me – both buses was flying at about 140 km/h!

I got my son to snap some photos to be passed over to JPJ (hopefully they will blacklist these drivers) whilst I concentrated on driving. And I was quite angry too. Not only the idiots were endangering me and other road users with their deadly driving, they were also endangering the passengers. But the, when I went to Aeroline’s website, I read the biggest joke from the company titled “Safety”:-

AEROLINE coaches are built on high quality imported Scania (Sweden)chassis. AEROLINE operates its very own dedicated maintenance facility that is manned by experienced mechanics to maintain the coaches to our own standards, by using only quality parts.

Furthermore, each AEROLINE captain is hand picked and undergo regular training and monitoring. With the aid of GPS tracking system, our command centre is able to monitor the operation of each bus in real time, thus ensuring every journey a safe one.

(Source)

Ya right, perhaps who ever wrote that “safety” statement should hand pick himself to take up a trip in their Aeroline buses where driving at more than 140 km/h and weaving in & out dangerously on a high deck buses meant nothing for these drivers. One wrong move weaving in and out of traffic or one tire blow out or encounter with one inexperienced driver and you will have another 20 – 30 passenger on the ditch and dead. No matter what the politicians, the bus company owners & management and the public may say after a tragedy, it will not bring back the dead. But unfortunately Aeroline is not the only bus company that I noticed speeding above the speed limit (but that does not mean they are not guilty of sheer recklessness). Another bus (from another bus company) just behind these Aeroline buses was also speeding at 140 km/h and was also weaving in and out of traffic. Within minutes, all these buses had disappeared from our sight as far as we can see up front.

And one main reason for this is because there is a serious lapse of enforcement. It is a fact that we fare badly when it comes to enforcement and it is not due to the laziness of the enforcement agencies. Sometimes the need for a stricter enforcement is curtailed, not by shortcomings of the enforcement agencies but rather due to the short sighted & (very, very) dumb politicians who flip-flops enforcement related policies on weak reasons and shout for all the wrong reasons.

This is where we have to relook into the implementation of the Automated Enforcement System (AES) on a larger scale. This is where also, rather unfortunately, the Pakatan fellows failed us miserably – yes, initially there seemed to be some “questions” in awarding the AES implementation to the private companies but that was not the main concern here. It was clear that the Pakatan politicians were barking on the wrong tree and had been asking all the wrong questions. The main concern is to ensure a strict adherence to the traffic rules and AES would have provided that unbiased, all weather, 24 x 7 automated enforcement that the other enforcement agencies may not been to able to provide effectively.

And now, nation wide AES implementation seemed to be on hold and that is allowing more idiots to break the traffic laws on a greater scale. They know that they cannot be caught (forget the yearly Ops Sikap – one, it is done during major holidays when the highways are packed thus reducing the opportunity to fly like you were on a race track and two, these drivers know that the police is out there in a greater force to nab these offenders) . That is why on other “non festival” days bus drivers like the above Aerobus drivers do not hesitate for a second to drive dangerously on the highways and endangering others on the road. Some unlucky ones end up killing their passengers and the whole vicious cycles starts again.

And there is another aspect of strict enforcement, ahem, since Najib been going around saying that the Government does not enough money for subsidies and what not. The more drivers nabbed for violation of traffic rules (and trust me, you will get a truckload of them without a sweat), the more fines can be collected and these money can be re-used for critical Government expenses (flying the fat lady overseas in private jets however does not count).

Just imagine that in the first 1 week of the AES in operation, it captured 63,558 offenses (an average of one offense every two-and-a-half minutes). Even if you use a modest RM50 fine per offense (speeding ticket will cost RM300), the Government can easily collect RM300,000 per week. Imagine how much they can collect on monthly basis. That is a lot of money that can be used again to beef up enforcement (more AES cameras) and make the roads safer again. Insurance claims has not been cheap as well – “net claims paid out for bodily injury and property damage due to road accidents in the first nine months of 2013 have risen to RM4.1 billion, compared to RM3.68 billion in the same period in 2012”.

We may have one of the best highways in the region (we still do) but we also have the 3rd world mentality when it comes to using them in the right way and in a safe way. You can be rest assured that you going to have more buses speeding above the speed limit and more deaths from unsafe speeding vehicles if attitude and enforcement does not change.

Please keep this mind as you balik kampung this Chinese New Year. Enjoy the holidays and have a plenty of rest.

Smoke Gets In My Eyes, Again!


Read these first

indonesia_tmo_2013170

(The hotspots in Indonesia is a yearly affair and it some how had become “tolerable” when by right it should not be the case. The above when Singapore faced the worst from the slash & burn activities in Indonesia. Image source: http://marufish.com)

At the beginning of last week, this was reported on the state of haze in Malaysia:-

Malaysian authorities declared a state of emergency Sunday in a southern district where a smoky haze blamed on Indonesian forest fires has triggered one of the country’s worst pollution levels in years.

The worst of the smog has shifted from Singapore to southernmost Malaysia, where noxious fumes have drifted across the sea this past week from Indonesia’s Sumatra island. The Malaysian government’s index for air pollution reached a measurement of 746 early Sunday in the southern district of Muar. It was far above the threshold of 300 for hazardous air quality.

Authorities were issuing instructions for Muar’s residents to remain indoors and for schools to close, Environment Minister G. Palanivel said in a statement on his Facebook page. The district has about 250,000 people, several of whom posted photographs on Twitter showing bridges and buildings enveloped in smog that slashed visibility to barely hundreds of meters (feet).

(Source)

And since then, some schools in the Klang Valley were closed for a couple of days (my son certainly was not complaining though) with all of us breathing in and out some of the very unhealthy air todate – some spiked more than 400 on the API reading. But thanks to (man made? or perhaps God taking pity on some of us) heavy rain last week and recent days, API readings have gone down to less dangerous levels and things seemed to have come down to a more normal levels (although last Sunday the haze was back). But hopefully despite the clear skies, we will not be forgetting the culprits who caused some of the worse air pollution over some states in Malaysia last week or keeping our silence on preventing similar occurrence in the coming years.

For start, the Indonesian Government have (once again) blamed (and listed) the “Malaysian” firms involved in the opening burning in Sumatra and on paper, the Malaysian Government have asked for proof and urged prosecution against the wrongdoers but it is a big question on whether the Indonesians would be willing to do that. We are talking big players here and a very aggressive prosecution on something that could be tough to prove (as to who started the fire) could back-fire big time – big players may pull out and huge investments may drop. Think about it – if they could prosecute the culprits, they would have done so a long time ago and that would have been the end of the yearly man-made deadly haze, right?

Interestingly whilst this is still being debated between the Governments, the Malaysian firms having plantation interests in Indonesia have come out emphasizing on their zero burn policy and flatly denied that they were the culprits behind the massive haze over Malaysia & Singapore – they are putting the blame on the locals who determined to do it the easy way. That sounds reasonable but is it?

The standard response has been to blame local communities and smallholders in Sumatra for the clear-cutting and slash-and-burn tactics. It is easy to blame the small guys/local farmers/local communities, etc when they are unable to respond in the media.

Yet, an overlay map of Sumatra shows that there is a close correlation between the hotspots (where the burning is taking place) and the concession areas for oil palm plantations and timber.

So, the large companies then engage some of these local communities to clear the land for them – sort of like outsourcing the land-clearing. And then these local communities do it in the easiest or cheapest way possible. Moreover, the local people often do not have the expertise for replanting, which the large companies possess. But because it is the local communities doing the clearing, the large companies are able to wash their hands and pass the buck to the local communities.

(Source)

And it gets worse if these allegations are true:-

The whole world knows, and has for years, that the haze is not just the product of ‘burning-off’ by a ragtag bunch of small farmers, but wholesale illegal clearance of what’s left of Sumatra’s peat forests by the managements of massive palm-oil plantations.

And that many of these environmental vandals are so-called government-linked corporations which the respective ruling regimes involved are coy about naming because they and their cronies are the principal beneficiaries.

(Source)

In the end, it goes back to the issue of enforcement and the deploying the best method for clearing the land for plantation.

The issue is serious (at least for me) when you have small kids and old people at home and they start to have breathing difficulties and there is nothing much we could do about it. Mind you, 2 people died from all the haze in Malaysia, courtesy of the idiots in Indonesia taking short cuts to clear the land. One of their Ministers even had the cheek to say that the Singaporeans are acting childish on this (some politicians will remain a moron to the core no matter which country they are from). Perhaps some of you may not have small kids and old people to take care of but then what about your own health concerns in the long run? How long you think you can survive wearing mask when you go out? Don’t you get frustrated, angry and sick at the same? What about the negative impact to the country’s economy especially in the tourism sector – how many tourists you think will be willing to take a long stroll outside if the haze is thick and sickening?  In the end, will the slash & burn buggers compensate for these losses – both the economic and personal losses?

00-ria-novosti-infographics-be-200chs-amphibious-firefighting-aircraft-2010

(If there is fire and it cannot be done with simple tools, it is time to look at a more powerful one. One such tool would be the fire-fighting aircraft like the one made by Russia above – it is more effective once coupled with the traditional fire-fighting techniques on the ground. Image source: http://02varvara.wordpress.com)

The “problem” with the problem is that everyone knows what need to be done. The mysterious part would be on the Governments with all its might, expertise and will-power seems to be powerless when this happens on a yearly basis and one need to ask why the might of the law and almost unlimited resources of the Government have not been used to the fullest scale? Sucking up to the slash & burn offenders does has its limits. Instead of being reactive to the problem, why not be proactive instead? After all, trans boundary air pollution is not something one can hide under the blue carpet.

Enforcement aspect aside (it is all talk and no action here for donkey odd years), let’s start with a beef-up the fire services with a specialize team on the forest & peat fires with superior technology (like early warning systems), tools (such fire-fighting planes) and man-power all paid in advance on a yearly basis from a centralised fund (all donated graciously from all plantation owners)? Why not use the satellite imaginary system to pin-point the start of the peat and use the information to coordinate fire-fighting and enforcement on a more aggressive manner? It can be done if this need to be done.

But before that, the Indonesia Government should start with ratifying the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution is an environmental agreement established in 2002 between all ASEAN nations to reduce haze pollution in Southeast Asia. There should not be any more excuses from the Indonesians, now that the source of the haze is clearly is self made and is in their own back yard.

Time to breathe in and breathe out before the next round of haze is back

Damn Those Shoddy Roadworks!


Pothole_Repair_Image

(The right way to do a patch for potholes – instead of covering only the hole, cut a bigger area and patch in the right way and follow up on the patch work. How many times you have seen this in the Bolehland? Image source: http://www.gallagherpaving.com)

Read these stories back in 2011:-

Whether in residential or commercial areas, travelling around the city often means a bumpy ride because of the potholes and badly patched stretches of roads. In many places, roads in good condition are dug up by utility and telecommunications companies for the laying of pipes and cables. They are then badly resurfaced.

In April, Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng had highlighted at least six places in his constituency where roads were dug up without a permit. A spokesperson from the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) corporate communications department confirmed that there have been cases where contractors operate without approval from DBKL.

“If we find out that they have no permit, we will contact the respective companies. If the dug-up areas have not been patched up or resurfaced, we will do it for them and issue them the bill. “We have also found out that many contractors appointed by the companies have no expertise in resurfacing roads,” he said.

(Source)

And

Most councils require a deposit from companies before they are allowed to carry out any roadwork. If the council finds the resurfacing job has not been done properly, resulting in sedimentation on the road, the deposit is then forfeited. It has been reported that RM500,000 per kilometre is needed to carry out road resurfacing.

Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng said the two causes for the bad road conditions in the Klang Valley were the old method of patching the holes as well as underground water leakage. “There are also contractors who take the easy way out to save money,” he said. However, there is not enough enforcement to check on the quality of roadworks. In his constituency alone, there are holes from digging work that have been left as they are for months, especially in Segambut Dalam, Mont Kiara and Hartamas.

Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Fuad Ismail said 80% of the potholes and uneven roads were caused by utilities and telecommunication companies digging up the roads to install and repair their cables. He said there were so many of such roadworks that it had become an embarrassment to DBKL because the blame was often laid at its door.

(Source)

The road near my workplace was bad so much so that I was even contemplating of buying a 4 wheel drive vehicle for my daily commute. It was a similar case with another stretch of road near my housing area. It gets worse – certain part of the road gets flooded once it rains. Then one day, a couple of days before the general election, a “miracle” happened and it happened overnight – it could have been one of the pre-election goodies. The road was resurfaced and to a quality that all Malaysians can be proud of. And the level of the road has been raised to ensure it does not get flooded whenever it rains. And it was so for a couple of weeks until some bastards decided that they need to dig up the whole stretch of the beautifully resurfaced road to do some piping work and they decided to do this at peak hours. They closed one part of the road, causing the already terrible traffic jam to be even worse. And then they started digging and that lasted for few days. Then they do the worse kind of patching work ever once done. The patch work was not the same level of the road and ended up as mini bumps all over the place. Some started to form into mini potholes. And after a couple of days of rain, it went bad to worse.

Potholes and bad road work is not new in Malaysia – as far as one can remember, this has been so for many years. Whenever I see the excavator digging into the beautifully laid road (resurfaced with taxpayers’ money), it pains me greatly. And it has been a norm in Bolehland to see some buggers digging up the road just after it has been perfectly laid on and not before that. Don’t these idiots plan before they do things? Don’t they check first with the relevant authorities and get their approval to ensure that whatever roadwork to be done is done before the road is scheduled to be resurfaced? Don’t they realize that they causing the taxpayers some serious money to resurface the road again? Probably they are the same idiots who queue up at the express lane at the supermarkets with more than 10 items despite a large notice at the counters.

Never mind, let’s assume that they are digging up all over the place in the “best interest” of their paying consumers. After all, wouldn’t we all be making a lot noise when our internet gets disconnected or the water supply breaks down unannounced? And let’s assume that that they are unable to plan the digging before the road is resurfaced due to some unavoidable circumstances, red-tapes at the local authority or to some serious emergency (where they could not afford to wait). The next question in mind is why these buggers can’t resurface back the road in a proper way and without the bulging patch all over the place or the sink-holes (due to insufficient top soil, heavy traffic or bad weather). Can’t they put themselves in the shoe of the long suffering road users who have to ply the same road and risk serious damage to their vehicles after that shoddy patch work?

After all, if they know how to dig, they also should know how to patch, right? No excuse of them not being well-verse with road-work or their sub-contractor not doing job to the right specifications and quality (it’s alright if it looks ugly or messy but at least it need to be strong enough to take the usual stress and not turn into a bigger pothole). No excuses of the weather (the usual sorry excuse) or heavy traffic on the road – it is already known fact, so whatever patch work done must take this into consideration. Unfortunately instead, we get the usual quick fix of placing back the content dug out and then pouring the bitumen on the pothole and simply patch it to cover the hole – some to the same size of the hole instead of a bigger area and leaving plenty of spaces for water to seep in and make it worse.

Why the shoddy work? Is it because someone is trying to make that extra bit of profit from saving up money to be spent on a proper patch work? Or is it because it has been sub-contracted to less competent contractors – one who has less experience, skills and the know-how but formed just to milk the lucrative Government projects? And what happened to the enforcement aspect of the local authorities inspecting the patch work and to ensure that it is up to mark and if it is not, to force the contractors to redo the patch work or fine them left right center for the poor patch work (and then use the fine to do a proper resurfacing later or to reimburse motorists who suffered damages to their vehicles). Do that and they will think twice of short-changing the taxpayers when it comes to doing a good job – can we?

And since potholes have been with us since the creation of the roadways, are we also looking on whether we need to improve on how we tackle potholes with new technologies. Or are we still far off from this kind of long term solution for a long outstanding problem. In the meantime, we should be up arms against anyone who dig up the roads but don’t bother to take the time and proper care to do a professional repair work. After all, this is eating up into the taxpayers funds in the long run and creates unnecessary danger to all road users.

GE13: Quote of the Day 2


TaibNajib_1

(Well it was a big surprise to know that MACC had actually been “fingering” Taib on the allegations of corruption, at least not in the open and at least to a point where Taib is forced to make arrogant statement in the media but it was an even bigger surprise if the Government & MACC comes hard on Taib after this – after all, we have not see any “big fish” spending his / her last days in prison. Image source: http://fz.com)

When one is talking about “winnable candidates” and coming down clean for the voters to make the right decision, one cannot be far from dealing with the issue of corruption as well.

With the rather damaging revelations of broad-daylight corruption in Sarawak (now dubbed as the Shadow State) by the Global Witness and the growing call for MACC to make its investigations based on this revelation, we have this:-

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud said that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) does not deserve his cooperation in regard to the exposé made by Global Witness.

“They [MACC] don’t deserve my cooperation because they have been naughty and dishonest with me. “Let them investigate if they want to victimise me,” Taib said after attending the Barisan Nasional presidential council meeting at the PWTC here today. Last month, foreign-based NGO Global Witness made a shocking exposé on the alleged corrupt practices involving those linked to Taib pertaining to the sale of native customary land in Sarawak.

Asked whether the video had tarnished his image in Sarawak, Taib replied in the negative, saying that the exposé was not in tune with what Sarawakians wanted.

(Source)

Is he really above the law as many have claimed it to be?

Can Taib afford not to cooperate with MACC at a time when Najib desperately need to show that BN are far from the taint of any corruption? Does he has a choice in the first place? Does this means enforcement agencies like MACC is under the thumb and rule of such arrogant politicians? If the expose of corruption, tax evasion and gross abuse of government assets is not what the “Sarawakians wanted”, what else is then? That few can continue to enrich themselves with tax-payers money and native land whilst leaving the rest to remain under the poverty line but when investigations starts, turn around and claim that they have been victimised?

If Najib and MACC do not come hard (without the end result of Teoh Beng Hock of course) on this kind arrogance by politicians with shady background, then it is clear that a change of Government is grossly needed. Despite the past misgiving of MACC that resulted in people turning up dead and the lack of bite to go after the big fish in corruption, unfortunately it is still the only corruption agency in the country that was entrusted of fighting corruption on all levels.

So with Taib telling MACC off, does this means we have closed MACC down? Some seems to think so:-

What is the MACC to do now? All eyes are on the MACC, again.

After all, two people have died in the course of their investigations since they were set up in 2009. Will it back down and keep quiet after this brazen response from Taib? Won’t this kind of snub embolden others to thumb their nose at the MACC and refuse to cooperate too?

If the MACC doesn’t do anything about this response from Taib, it might as well close shop. It is already working on a trust deficit basis and this snub from Taib has just shown how powerless the commission can be when it comes head-to-head with the powerful.

(Source)

Just because Taib had won the state seats for Najib, does it means Najib had to hold back any action on wrongdoings (some even borders high treason) in sheer gratitude? Otherwise corruption and mismanagement of funds will continue without any prosecutions and the nation bled to death and the same politicians will claim that they have done the best for the nation. Remember and vote wisely when the time comes even if you are not in Malaysia’s shadow state.