MALAYSIAN DRIVERS = Cavemen in cars?

*Click to enlarge the article. Published in The Star on 2 Aug 2012 (World, Page 40 – ‘Diplomatically Speaking’ by Dennis Ignatius)

This was published just one day after one orang putih mentioned in his letter to the newspaper that Malaysia is paradise on earth to him!

Here are my comments:

“We seem to have this notion that traffic laws can be overlooked when it is inconvenient or ignored when there’s little chance of being caught.” – Many Malaysians think that it is okay to commit certain traffic offences whenever there’s no policeman around. In life, it is indeed a dangerous mindset when we think that it is okay to break certain rules if it’s not convenient for us to follow them. Imagine the consequences when such third-world mentality is applied to other areas e.g. in the government, in the family, and in the workplace.  I believe such thinking is one of the factors why Malaysia is lagging behind in terms of development. Don’t just blame the government – every single citizen has to play his part (if we really want to blame the government, let’s remember that we voted them into power). So? The power to improve the present situation and decide the future of our nation is really in OUR hands.

“Clearly, most drivers long ago concluded that the authorities are not serious about enforcing traffic regulations. Cars are, for example, illegally parked right in front of the pondok police in Bangsar but the cops don’t seem to notice or mind.” – It’s not just traffic rules, the cops seem to ignore other breaches of the law too. I’ve personally seen illegal firecrackers being played less than 100m from a balai polis bergerak, and the policemen seemed oblivious! What’s really wrong with the authorities in Malaysia?! A case of pure attitude problem? Poor training? Leadership problem? Low pay resulting in low motivation to carry out their duties? Our education system has failed to produce a good workforce? Come on… it’s not just the police, certain authorities or government departments. This tidak apa attitude is a national epidemic! Think about the general workforce – are we always getting good service from retailers and service providers? No! Many Malaysian workers are disrespectful to customers, lazy (always look for shortcuts), lack initiatives, well… the list goes on and on. And we always keep on complaining. The worst part – we do nothing about it. Can we do something about it? Yes! If we think we or our children are smart and capable, join the police force. Apply to become teachers in government schools. Our nation doesn’t just need smart doctors. Teach in government schools and make an impact on a larger audience. Don’t just give tuition and help students pass exam. We need educators, not tutors! Want to know what Malaysia will look like in 20 years’ time? Just look at our schoolchildren. These will be the 20-somethings and 30-somethings in the future. What type of mindset are we shaping in them? What kinds of example are we showing to them? What values are we imparting into these young lives? The same tidak apa attitude that some of us and our parents adopt? This is our country, our responsibility. Don’t forget about our role in informal education.

 “In any case, if you are unfortunate enough to get ticketed whenever officialdom stirs, a few dollars should settle it; more if it’s near a festive season. It’s called an out of court settlement.” – “Apa macam?”, “Nak tolong”, “Nak saya saman?”, “U tolong I, I tolong u…”, “Saya tulis saman ok?”, “Boleh settle sini?”, “Berapa? RM50? RM30 boleh?”. “Saya Anti-Rasuah” or “Saya Nanti Rasuah?”. We make jokes about it. We are cynical about it.  You know what? We should be ASHAMED about it! We grew up seeing our elders doing it. Many of us gave our first bribe in our teenage years to get our driving licence at the first attempt. Bribers are like cancer cells. Collectively they become a malignant tumour. It’ll eventually kill the nation. Never think that corruption is happening only in the public sector. It’s rampant in the private sector as well. And please…big or small, corruption is corruption. Some of us give small bribes to avoid trouble but condemn the big fish who are involved in big bribes.

“Stopping at red lights, in an any case, appears to be discretionary, especially if it’s late at night or early in the morning. ‘It makes no sense to stop at a red light when there is no traffic’, one friend explained to me.” – It all boils down to two things: our disrespect for the law and  our impatience. What’s so difficult about just following the rules? How much benefit can we reap with that 1 minute saved by not stopping at the red light? What if one day when we decide to beat the red light, another driver from the other side also does the same? And he might be sleepy or drunk and driving at a speed that we couldn’t see them from afar (he might even have forgotten to switch on the headlights!). Is it worth the risk? Compromising on following rules becomes a habit that extends to other areas of life. It could be a costly and deadly habit. Rules are there for our protection. Remember, we reap what we sow. If we don’t abide by the rules others have set, people would not comply with the rules we set. Probably that’s why there are more and more rebellious kids…

“Motorcyclists, for their part, don’t think that traffic lights (or any rules for that matter) apply to them.” – It is no wonder why Malaysia has one of the highest incidence of road accidents in the world, and the majority of casualities and fatalities are motorcyclists. Selfish and non-law-abiding motorists contribute to these statistics too.

“Worst of all are the owners of those expensive and flashy cars with fancy number plates and windscreens covered with club stickers. They seem to think that they are entitled to special privileges including parking in front of hotel lobbies, mall entrances or restaurants. It doesn’t help that our police and security guards suffer from big car phobia, which can be defined as undue submissiveness to owners of big cars.” – Some of these cars also have crest(s) on the number plates which I’m not too sure give them the privilege to have heavily tinted windows that are probably not approved by JPJ. If even the police are afraid of them, does it mean that these people are above the law?

“On the nation’s highways, owners of expensive cars seem to think that all other vehicles must immediately make way for them. If you don’t get out of the way quickly enough, be prepared to be tailgated, flashed, honked, and on occasion, given the mean finger.” – To be fair, it’s not just the expensive cars. Some Kancils, Vivas and 20-year-old Proton Sagas do the same. The worst offender? Express buses! Ever notice some of them overtake you and disappear in front within a short time even though you might be driving at 100km/hour. Despite so many accidents involving express buses, does anyone care to do something about this? Their speed limit is 90km/hour on highways!

“Undoubtedly, the authorities must share much of the blame for this culture of lawlessness. Their inconsistent, selective or non-existent enforcement of traffic rules only encourages disregard, and even contempt, for the law.” – One word to describe some of our authorities – ‘useless’.

“Poor urban planning and overdevelopment further compounds the problem.” – Root causes: greed, lack of corporate social responsibility, corruption. CSR is not just presenting a giant mock cheque to a charitable organisation, and publicise it in the media. It’s a culture embraced sincerely from top to bottom in the company. It’s not doing ‘charity’ for tax exemption purposes or as part of a branding exercise.

“Interestingly, when we travel to the United States, Britain, Australia or even Singapore, we suddenly become very law abiding. We would never think of parking illegally in those places because we know we would quickly get ticketed and ticked off, Datuk or not. Offer a bribe and you might end up in jail. Amazing what a little enforcement and honest policing can do for law and order.” – Conclusion: ENFORCEMENT is key. Talking about it is easy. The execution part is different story altogether. The question is, ‘Are those in power even making this a priority?’.

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