By Zairil Khir Johari
I am surprised and bemused by the comments of Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem regarding DAP Sarawak’s election manifesto, particularly on the pledge to provide free bus services in all major cities in the state, including Kuching, Miri, Bintulu and Sibu.
According to the media, Adenan is reported to have said: “I want to see Selangor and Penang (state governments) do this. They’ve been in power for many years but they never talk about this.”
Unfortunately, such a statement is both ignorant and ironic, because the fact is that DAP has indeed already spearheaded such initiatives in both Penang and Selangor.
In Penang, free bus services began as early as 2009, when the state government launched the Central Area Transit (CAT) bus loop in George Town. In 2011, the Bridge Express Shuttle Transit (BEST) FIZ was introduced to ferry workers from the mainland to the Bayan Lepas free industrial zone, while the BEST Komtar service started operations in 2012. All these services are subsidised by the Penang state government
More recently, another free bus service called the Pulau Tikus Loop was introduced in the Bukit Bendera parliamentary constituency, with the cooperation and sponsorship of local stakeholders.
In 2011, the Penang state government even offered to pay RapidPenang for free bus services throughout the whole state during peak hours on weekdays, but unfortunately the offer was turned down by Prasarana, the government-linked company that operates the bus services in Penang.
As for Selangor, the first free bus service was implemented in 2014 with the PJ Free Bus in Petaling Jaya, which has since been expanded with additional routes. In 2015, following the success of the free bus service in Petaling Jaya, Selangor State Executive Councillor Dato’ Teng Chang Khim launched the Selangor Smart Bus service that plies routes in Klang, Shah Alam and Subang Jaya. Recently, it was announced that service had been extended to cover Selayang and Sepang as well.
It is most disappointing that Adenan is completely unaware of the public service improvements being undertaken in other states, especially in Penang and Selangor where DAP is a coalition partner in government.
However, it is even more disappointing that Adenan does not see the wisdom in investing in public transport, which is a critical element in urban life. An efficient public transport system would not only provide mobility to the masses, it would also help people save travelling costs and reduce the dependency on private vehicles, hence reduce traffic. It would also mean that fewer people would need to purchase private vehicles, which is a major source of household debt in Malaysia.
Clearly, DAP is not a party that makes empty promises. We have already provided free bus services in Penang and Selangor, and now the people of Sarawak have a chance to vote for a government that would do the same for them.
Zairil Khir Johari is DAP Assistant National Publicity Secretary and MP for Bukit Bendera.
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