Friday, October 19, 2012

How many ears must a man have before he can hear people cry?

It is ironical that the government is determined to go ahead with certain mega projects—despite objections from the public—yet turns a deaf ear to pleas for better roads and bridges and other public amenities. Among these proposed projects are a multi-storied shopping mall and hotel on the bluff which is occupied by the 100-year-old Atkinson Clock Tower in KK, and the dams in Kota Belud and Ulu Papar.

You don’t have to travel to remote areas to see that many villages need better roads and bridges. In fact, many of these places have been visited by government officials who came to announce to excited villagers: their dirt road will be upgraded, a bridge will span across the river, they will  enjoy the convenience of piped water to their homes.

However, even simple villagers are now realizing that there are leaders who pretend to listen and do little more than scatter empty promises—like the promise to seal a stretch of track in some Kota Belud village. So enraged were the villagers, when they discovered it was just another empty promise, that when a huge signboard was erected to announce the upgrading of another dirt road they took their axes and parangs and chopped it down. The dirt road was actually sealed after the incident. But could you blame the exasperated people for doing what they did?

How long do these bearers of empty promises expect the rakyat to be patient? Ten years? Twenty? Fifty?
Photo credit: D. Aloysius

What the people want are proper roads, roads on which vehicles could be driven in all weather and not those which magically turn into drains, rivers or buffalo ponds after a five-minute afternoon shower.

The people want good bridges so they could walk without worrying they'd step into a hole or trip on a loose plank. They want safe bridges so their school-going kids would not fall through a man-sized hole and plunge into the river.
Photo credit: 1Suara Sabah
Photo credit: 1Suara Sabah

Sky bridge in WMal (Courtesy of D. Dryland)

1926 Keningau (Colonial Office Photographic Collection)


While some places in the country have fancy bridges so tourists could touch the sky and admire the view and treetops, many villages in Sabah have to make do with jambatan gantung some of which are in unimaginable state of disrepair. You’d assume that now we are no longer a colony, we’d have better bridges than we did during those faraway colonial days. But some bridges built during those days could be much superior to those newly built ones, at least in Sabah.

I noted that a jambatan gantung in this village I visited recently was used by many people passing through the area. Is it the only bridge serving the kampung, I wondered. A motor-cyclist had to get off his machine, inspect the bridge before he laboriously took his motor-bike across.

In my own kampung, a wooden bridge built to enable vehicles to cross the river is now barely passable even for us, two-footed beings. Yet this bridge was actually built so tractors could be driven to the paddy fields across the river. Needless to say, no tractors could cross the river today and, judging by the condition of the bridge, no tractor has passed that way for many years already.
My kampung in the news.

A view of the same bridge

Like kids, we’re continually told to be grateful for this, that and more. Be grateful because we have a leader who has the “ability and readiness to listen to the grouses and wants of the people in the State”, someone said in a recent newspaper report.

Well, my dear reader, judge for yourself. Should we be grateful for the crumbs that fall from the table?

My response? Allow me to borrow some words from an old song: “The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.”

1 comment:

  1. Those words from that song sum it all. These leaders think we are dumb enough to forget what's blown in the wind.