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Thursday, March 31, 2011

GTP and the stink of reality

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Snatch thefts, robberies and murders are almost a daily threat and the result is people are afraid to leave their homes, terrified of the danger lurking outside.Crimes like rape are far from decreasing. Not a day goes by without newspapers reporting about it. This does not include the rapes perpetrated by those in authority.

For those in police custody, they should count their blessings if they do not end up dead in their cells. In the face of all this, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has declared his contentment with the performance of civil servants.

In an interview with Malaysian Business magazine recently, Najib said he was surprised that set targets have been achieved and some even surpassed. “This is a wonderful testament to the commitment by the civil service,” he said, and added that “much of what we promised has been delivered.”

The promises talked about include better public transport, fighting corruption, reducing crime rate and poverty respectively. What commitment is the prime minister talking about? Civil servants are merely doing what they are paid to do, no more. Maybe it is a case of being overworked and underpaid, as government servants have forgotten how to greet the people.

Some of them even take the liberty of insulting their customers over queries made. Is that what great job is all about? Najib is on the edge, confident that the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) will do wonders for the country. Instead of glossing over the end results, he must make sure the people on the ground are serving the public without fear or favour.

Reality check is in place to alert Najib not to exaggerate the achievements of the civil service. Is Najib aware that cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur fails miserably in the cleanliness rating? The city is as dirty as a City Hall waste truck, with rubbish scattered everywhere. The drains in town are horrendously clogged, often the cause of those notorious flash floods assaulting the city.

Pedestrian bridges are filthy, reeking of urine stench and the lighting doesn’t work – clear evidence of the local council workers not doing their jobs. Plus, these bridges have become a haven for drug addicts, vagabonds and beggars who have turned them into makeshift homes. All this has forced pedestrians to refrain from using these facilities for fear of being mugged or harassed by drug addicts or beggars.They rather risk their lives and dash across the streets.

The bus stops outside the Light Rail Train (LRT) stations are never lit up when it is dark, giving the LRT commuters the creeps when waiting there for the bus or taxi.

Cheap tiles

Since Najib takes great pride in his “people first, performance now” mantra, does it bother him to know that cheap tiles are used for the flooring of LRT stations, resulting in commuters having near falls each time they have to dash for the train. And in the heart of the city too, there are drains with covers no where in sight. Tourist spots like Petaling Street and Central Market are crying out for sufficient rubbish bins as the few that are there are choked to the brim with waste.

Where the public buses are concerned, its drivers are told by their management to cut down on the use of the air-condition to save cost.

All this comes at who’s expense if not the people? Likewise, the Komuter train service is just as lousy, with the coaches meant for women leaking, showering the passengers with rain water.

The above are just some examples of a day in the life of the average Malaysian. It is clear that what Najib is claiming cannot be vouched as the truth. The situation on the ground stinks, literally. Instead of throwing dust in the public eyes, he should make sure matters on the ground work effectively for it is his “people first” who are at the receiving end of the services provided by civil servants.

With such inconvenience faced by the people, Najib’s claims are baffling. The quality of life of the ordinary Malaysian has yet to improve, for the reason that the civil servants have yet to clean up their acts. Najib may be in a flutter over the great work done by civil servants but the people will vouch otherwise. His eureka idea of the GTP has brought no tangible improvement in the lives of the people.

Najib said the many civil servants involved in the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) labs, which drew up the targets, were “now keen to see that they deliver on their plans and promises”

“The civil service has been very receptive to the changes that have been introduced with the GTP,” Najib said. “It has proven to be a major catalyst and a benchmark for the civil service to work harder and as a team for the benefit of the rakyat.”

His words are cold comfort to those in the bottom rung of the totem pole who are the best judges of how things work on the ground. For instance, has Najib’s GTP helped make the working place safe for women? If the Labour Department director-general Ismail Abdul Rahim can trivialise the proposed Sexual Harassment Bill, that in right earnest speaks of how “committed” Najib’s civil servants are in delivering the goods.

Where is the commitment when KL City Hall workers last year mercilessly abused a street dog while sprucing up the Kepong Sentral railway station, just to make sure the minister visiting the site would be pleased with their good work? Was there a need to treat the dog with such cruelty? The canine died 46 days later. Were the workers reprimanded by the minister concerned or City Hall? Is animal life worth nothing in this country?

Sad, pathetic story

In the face of all this, is the public supposed to take Najib’s words as gospel truth when reality on the ground tells a sad and pathetic story?

Najib said the crime index has decreased by 15% while street crime has reduced by 35%. Credit for this goes to the mobilisation of more than 14,000 police officers to 50 crime hotspots. Also, about 5,000 Rela (People’s Volunteer Corps) and JPAM (Civil Defence Force) members were deployed to the hotspots.

Is Najib’s idea of tackling crime limited to only street crimes like snatch thefts? What is he doing to reduce crimes like rape, domestic violence, child abuse or for that matter make sure the streets are safe for the women and children?

As for the Rela members, they do more harm than good when its members behave in barbaric ways, especially during raiding of premises to nab illegal immigrants. This has resulted in the public having little faith in them and would rather avoid seeking their help. Since Rela’s help is regarded as invaluable by Najib’s government, it is only fair that the recruitment of Rela members be based on proper academic qualifications and aptitude.

In the case of the police, what does the public do when the police abuse their patrol duties and harass the people for money or sexual favours?

The percentage quoted by Najib does not help reassure the people who know better that the roads are still haunted by the presence of snatch thieves, regardless of time of day. There have been many such cases where victims of snatch thieves either end up dead or severly injured for the rest of their lives.

And talking about crime and police, an English daily recently reported that the family of a missing contractor Wong Fook Onn who was murdered on March 20 this year is upset with police investigations into the case. His family lodged a police report after Wong went missing on March 14.

Wong’s father Kim Sai claimed the police never updated the family, prompting the senior Wong to investigate his son’s murder himself. Kim Sai successfully located his son’s missing car and upon alerting the police, was asked to drive the car home.

Kim Sai was puzzled as the car was evidence in a police case. Wong Senior refused and spent the night keeping an eye on the car to ensure the evidence was not tampered with.

Kim Sai was unhappy as the police reacted indifferently and he has since turned to MCA Public Services and Complaints Department head Michael Chong for assistance.

On March 20, Kim Sai was alerted by a Sin Chew Daily reporter that a body was found in an abandoned house near the car. The description of the body matched that of Wong Fook Onn.

Najib also said the ministers had their individual Ministerial Key Result Areas (MKRAs) focused when it came to delivering and achieving targets that had been set for them.

Indeed, if the ministers had their focus intact, a homeless dog would not have been abused at the convenience of the City Hall workers. If the MKRAs is a dedicated effort, the ministers would think twice before skipping Parliament sessions or blowing taxpayers’ money on frivolous things.

Trying so hard to assure the people, Najib said the government would continue to hold engagements with the people to obtain their feedback on possible new areas of focus. Is all this lip service or will Najib take the people’s comments seriously? - FMT

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