Saturday, April 10, 2010

Rotten system: ‘It’s better to be a trishaw rider!’

In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessing and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

This is a Scripture which We revealed
unto thee Muhammad tat thereby
thou may bring forth mankind
From darkness unto light. (Ibrahim 14:1)

WALKING along a road near the banks of Sungai Mersing from Hotel Timotel not long ago, I reached Kampung Sri Lumpur, Mersing. The sight of the kampung was pitiful. Old wooden houses and huts stood on stilts, the ground filled with mud. In some areas including below several houses, stagnant waters was visible.

I stopped by the roadside, not believing what I was seeing. In modern Malaysia, here stood this poor kampung. I saw a few houses so old; they seemed about to crash into the mud and water. Ohh, look at their ‘dapur’ (kitchens), they were in dire conditions.

I suddenly remembered an old Malay film that I saw years ago. Perhaps here was where ‘Damak’, a famous character in an old Malay film called ‘Sri Mersing’ resided, I thought.

In Sri Mersing, Damak a poor young man was looked down by Pak Malau, a rich and powerful village head. Damak poured his heart in this famous ‘pantun’.

“Kajang Pak Malau kajang berlipat,
Kajang hamba mengkuang layu,
Dagang Pak Malau dagang bertempat,
Dagang hamba terbuang lalu.”

‘Damak’ was history but what’s the fate of today’s ‘Damaks’? They might be boys and young men of Mersing and couldn’t they be given opportunity to have a better tomorrow?

Was Kampung Sri Lumpur left alone when the country is in full gear to be transformed into a developed nation in 2020? What have the authorities done to upgrade the living standard of the people in this kampung?

In my office, I searched in the internet for more information about Kampung Sri Lumpur, Mersing, and found this piece.

Bridge to benefit villagers, tourists

ABOUT 500 residents of Kampung Sri Lumpur and Kampung Bahagia in Mersing can now breathe a sigh of relief after the Mersing District Council (MDM) announced plans to build a 50m-long suspension bridge across Sungai Mersing.

A suspension bridge costing RM400,000 will be built across Sungai Mersing. It will help villagers from Kampung Bahagia and Kampung Sri Lumpur to reduce the cost and time to reach the Mersing town centre.

With the bridge, the villagers no longer have to travel up to three kilometres to go to Bandar Baru Tepian Sungai or the Mersing town centre.

At present, villagers take about 15 minutes to get to the town which is only 50m away from the two villages across the river.

However, they have no choice as it is the only route to the town, where the bus and taxi station, and shopping centre are located.

MDM president Datuk Abd Razak Hasan, who is also the Mersing district officer, had applied for a RM400,000 allocation for the bridge project.

A survey at the two villages showed that the residents welcomed the bridge as it would help them save time and money whenever they go to Bandar Baru Tepian Sungai.

They said the new bridge could also be used to attract more tourists to both sides of the river.

Kampung Bahagia village head Khamis Saman, 60, said the villagers have been waiting for a long time for a bridge to benefit them and tourists.

"It is time to build a new bridge as the existing bridge is located in the Mersing town centre, which is far from our houses," said Khamis, adding that he hoped the government would approve the allocation soon.

Kampung Sri Lumpur resident Abd Rahman Abdullah, 68, said with the new bridge, villagers would only have to walk to get to Bandar Baru Tepian Sungai.

"The bridge could also attract tourists," said Abd Rahman, adding that he hoped the bridge would be built soon.” (NST, 21/4/09)

It’s interesting to note that a suspension bridge would be built for the benefits of the people of Kampung Sri Lumpur. During my visit there was no sign of the bridge. Its good news for the kampung folk but I thought the people could have more than a bridge, their lives and living condition should be improved using the people’s money.

Since we were told that our country is very rich (for example Petronas earns billions and billions of ringgit each year), some of the money should be used for the betterment of the poor rakyat such as ‘Damak’ of Kampung Sri Lumpur.

Alas, what could be said about it because, billions of ringgits of the people’s money had slipped into the hands of the rich and famous; and many had carted the money overseas, as claimed by a government enforcement official I met recently in KL recently.

As we talk, he showed me a front page lead story of Star newspaper (dated Tuesday, 8th December), with a headline ‘MAS-sive order’ and a strap ‘Court tells former airline boss Tajuddin to pay RM589 mil loan’.

The intro reads: “Former Malaysia Airlines chairman Tan Sri Tajuddin Ramli has been ordered to pay RM589mil he owned to Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd and two of its subsidiaries.”

The next line reads: “The amount was the balance of a RM1.79bil loan given to him by a group of lenders to finance the purchase of 32% stake in MAS in 1994.”

It continues: “High Court Judicial Commissioner Anantham Kasinather ordered Tajuddin to pay Danaharta Nasional, Danaharta Urus Sdn Bhd and Danaharta Managers Sdn Bhd the principal sum owned at Dec 31, 2005, of RM589,143,205.57 plus interest at 2% above the Malayan Banking Bhd base lending rate from Jan 1, 2006, until realization.”

The officer retorted: “Why did it take more than a decade to decide that Tajuddin should pay the loan? By the way, where is Tajuddin Ramli now? I know many top guns who were in the same situation as Tajuddin Ramli but they are still driving flashy cars and living in houses that look like palaces. Not even one of them has been put behind bars!”

I kept quiet, the officer went on blasting: “Tajuddin Ramli is not alone. I tell you, not long ago, those in power ordered Bank Negara to print RM10,000 notes. What’s the use in printing this huge denomination? Is this money circulating around? No, but I am sure these notes are abundance overseas than they are in the country. Can you name me the culprits?”

I was speechless and didn’t have any answer. So I looked again at the Star report. A passage reads: “In his statement of claim, Tajuddin had stated that then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had instructed him to acquire a 32% stake in MAS to bail out Bank Negara which has experienced losses in foreign exchange.

“Dr Mahathir later told the media he did not remember doing that and it was former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin who told him that Tajuddin was interested in the shares.”

The officer said he was becoming sicker each day and on several occasions had decided to quit from his job but on second thought, he decided to continue working as he was just a few years away from retirement.

“Brother,” he told me, “It’s better for you to be a trishaw rider than to be a government servant who witnesses all sort of nonsense but is helpless. Without doing something it is just like you approved the corrupt practices of those in power,” he said.

Recently all sorts of scandals were exposed one after another. After the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) scandal involving billions of ringgits, the billion ringgit double-tracking rail project between Rawang and Ipoh, followed suit.

According to this year’s audit report, the government may have to bear part of the RM1.14 billion loss in the 179km double-tracking rail contract as the project was poorly managed.

“Billions of public money was going down the drain. This money is supposed to be used to help the poor. They had their shares on the money but the few top guns had their hands on the country’s wealth.

“I knew some of these abuses of power, but sadly to say I had to keep my mouth shut. I am guilty of it, but what can I do? I think it’s better for me to earn an honest living as a trishaw rider than to be in this awkward position.”

Listening to what the officer had poured out made me to understand why top brass people like Dato’ Seri Ahmad Said Hamdan of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC or SPRM) prefer to resign.

Even former Prime Minster, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi too had to make way because ‘the system’ was too rotten as was said by another former PM, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad! It is too smelly, perhaps the mud in Kampung Sri Lumpur smelt better!

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