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One man’s praise is another man’s curse

 | February 15, 2017

Many were happy to see the Perak MB cleaning Ipoh's filthy streets, but others wonder what he's doing about dirty politics.

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One recent morning, the folk of Ipoh woke up to see their Mentri Besar, Zambry Abdul Kadir, riding on the back of a dustcart, stopping to empty rubbish bins and sweeping the back streets. Many were surprised, pleased and full of praise for him.

One person said, “We should have more senior politicians like him, a politician who is not afraid of getting his hands dirty.”

Were Zambry’s admirers right? Can’t Ipoh’s problems with disgusting litter, blocked drains and fly-tipping be solved without the MB himself doing the cleaning?

Wiser residents saw Zambry’s actions as a publicity stunt. One middle aged widow, well known at the Ipoh City Council for her regular complaints about uncollected rubbish, said: “The complaints of the residents on our road have fallen on deaf ears. It is suspicious that the MB is seen cleaning up our streets only now. It is even more suspicious that he brings along a camera crew and journalists.

“He could have found out the problems faced by the workers and resolved them quietly, in-house. There was no need to create a big show.”

Another person said, “Ipoh was once dubbed the Garden City, and it used to be the cleanest town in Malaysia. For decades, the council have failed to keep our streets clean. The problem started when rubbish collection was privatised.

“Clearing litter is not the sole responsibility of the council, but what are we to do when our rubbish is not collected, sometimes for weeks?

“Some people say only the upmarket parts of the city are provided with black bin bags and rubbish bins. Poorer parts of the city are ignored.

“We have a serious fly-tipping problem because of irresponsible council workers.”

Many Ipoh residents wonder why the MB did not tackle the rubbish issue much earlier. After all, this is Visit Perak Year and many parts of the city are filthy.

One shopkeeper said, “The people who praise him for collecting rubbish are gullible or stupid or both. If the MB has to collect rubbish, then this shows that the rubbish collection system has broken down.

“The mayor and Zambry cleaned the streets together. Is the job of finding a solution too difficult for the mayor? What are the supervisors and managers doing?

“Is the root of the problem a shortage of money, manpower or equipment? Couldn’t the mayor and city council resolve these on their own?

“If the mayor is unable to do his job, another mayor should be appointed. If workers are unable to keep to their schedule, find out why the system is failing them.

“The MB cannot gain a feel of the problems faced by the council worker in under two hours. Are the supervisors and middle managers unable to obtain feedback from their workers? Is there no communication?

“The MB’s role should be to lead the state, to improve the economy, to invite foreign investment. Instead, we have a glorified rubbish sweeper, perhaps the most highly paid cleaner in Malaysia. Why bother with elections?

“While he is being proactive, perhaps Zambry should begin cleaning Ipoh’s public lavatories.

“And if he is sincere, he might as well have a go at cleaning up politics and the civil service. The deadwood should be given early retirement. The dirty should be sacked and punished.”

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

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