ALONG THE WATCHTOWER By M. VEERA PANDIYAN (The Star)
Malaysians must expect and demand more changes for the better from those elected to serve them.
IT MAY not promise to look anything like it, but here’s wishing all a Happy New Year. Despite the gloomy global economic scenario, there is much euphoria and hope that things will change for the better.
The past year, after all, showed that Malaysians can bring about change if they really want to, as seen by the altered political landscape.
But it has also proved that some things are almost impossible to change, at least in the near future.
Deep-rooted suspicions and visceral sentiments linked to race, religion and language continue to keep us further away from achieving real nationhood, no thanks to an endless barrage of drivel from the usual suspects playing to the gallery.
Realistically, what can we look forward to this year?
For a start, we should demand and expect more from those who are elected and are paid by us to run this country.
With Parliament having passed the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Bill and the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, no time should be lost in restoring confidence in the judiciary, the legal system, the police, the Anti-Corruption Agency and other enforcement bodies.
Now that the net has been stretched and widened, make this the Year of the Big Fish.
Malaysians are tired of seeing only the ikan bilis (anchovies) brought out to dry.
They want the sharks, snappers, groupers and moray eels taxidermied and mounted on the walls in good measure for all to see.
People want the crooks to be punished, not the hypocrisy of more lip service. The MACC should lead the way towards transparency and accountability at all levels of government.
Isn’t it also about time that democracy is brought back to the grassroots? Taxation without representation in local government should end. So must the unfettered powers of “little Napoleons” who run many of these councils.
Selective persecution still persists, with small-time traders bearing the brunt of enforcement while a blind eye is turned to others who blatantly flout the law.
In several councils, including KL’s City Hall and MBPJ, enforcement is extra efficient when it comes to hawkers and coffee-shop operators, but the “close-one-eye” attitude is obvious in the case of illegal signs put up by loan sharks, quacks peddling aphrodisiacs and irresponsible real estate agents.
Who hasn’t seen these signs plastered on pillars of elevated highways and on street corners and nailed to trees: Ubat lelaki kuat (Strength medicine for men), Pinjaman: Kami boleh tolong orang yang kena blacklist (Loans: We can help even those who are blacklisted), Bank lelong (Bank auction)?
While on the subject of enforcement, the Road Transport Department’s latest focus on rear seat belts is a yet another one of its bizarre campaigns.
You can be fined for not wearing a safety belt if you are one of three (in a five-passenger vehicle) seated in the back of the car, but the fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh passengers are exempted from the rule.
No too long ago, there was much hoo-ha over vehicles fitted with high-intensity Xenon headlights. Zilch came out of it.
A night drive on our roads and highways will show so many vehicles are now equipped with these blinding bluish lights, posing a danger to other motorists.
One could say the same for past campaigns against heavily tinted windscreens, fancy number plates and modified exhaust pipes.
But there are more serious threats that need to be tackled by the JPJ immediately – express buses (and, in some cases, trailers and trucks) speeding on the highways.
As someone who uses the Sungai Besi-Air Keroh stretch of the North-South expressway weekly, I can vouch that almost all express buses break the maximum 90kmh speed limit for commercial vehicles.
Many whiz past at up to 140kmph or tailgate menacingly behind cars in the fast and middle lanes.
There is always a predictable hue and cry each time a bus crash tragedy occurs, but the truth is nothing has been done to effectively prevent the next one from taking place.
Why can’t there be better monitoring of errant bus drivers, using unmarked vehicles on the highways, for instance?
As for Parliament, let’s hope to see less raffish behaviour among MPs in the Dewan Rakyat in 2009.
The august House should not be abused as a place to earn notoriety for racist rhetoric, sexist remarks and ribaldry.
> Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes these wise words from British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead: The art of progress is to preserve order amid change and to preserve change amid order.