Friday, March 25, 2011

Why pinch money from the poor rakyat?

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

"Did ye then think that We created you in jest,
and that ye would not be brought back to Us for account?" (Mu'minum 23:115)

MAHATMA Gandhi once said that real progress of a nation is measured by the upliftment of the people lying at its lowest strata. Does the current progress in the state of Melaka where the Barisan Nasional (BN) won ‘the converted trophy’ of Merlimau constituency, conform to this yardstick? Also note that the Chief Minister, Mohd Ali Rustam had himself declared in October 2010 that Melaka was a fully developed state.

The BN had won and rejoiced; perhaps their celebrations are still ongoing, but for me I had a slap on the face on March 8 when for the first time in my life I received a notice from Majlis Bandaraya Melaka Bersejarah (Melaka Historical City Council) asking me to pay ‘cukai taksiran harta’ (quit rent assessment) for my house amounting to RM21.60. The payment was for a six month period of January-June this year.

Some of my neighbours too had received the bills, they too were first timers. Prior to this, all of us (residents of a villagers on the outskirts of the city) had no experience in this sort of thing. Why the authorities concerned are making it hard for ordinary kampung folks during these hard times when prices of necessities are spiraling; the cost of living almost unbearable to those in the lowest and lower income group?

Yet at the time when the rakyat are shivering about how fast their small amount of money is ‘disappearing’ from their pockets (nowadays if you go to the market with a RM50 in your hand, it would only be enough for you to buy a kilogram of meat, a medium size ‘ikan tenggiri’ and a few bundles of vegetables), the authorities including those at the helm in municipal councils are thinking fast how they could double their income.

It is okay if it is for the benefit of the rakyat, but one could not help but have a thought about those big and glamorous projects undertaken by the municipality and the state government with public money.

Let us took a quick drive (and look) from the Ayer Keroh Tol Plaza to the historical city to see for ourselves those glamorous but wasteful projects using public funds.

After exiting the toll plaza, if one is observant, on the left near the road junction to Durian Tunggal, there stands the Melaka Go-Cart circuit which was built at the cost of RM9.9 milllion.

It is now in an abandoned state, the company in charge was said failed to settle rent amounting to RM210,000 to ‘Perbadanan Kemajuan Negeri Melaka’ (Melaka State Development Corporation).

If one is to take the Ayer Keroh-Melaka road at night, one will notice the road is decorated with bright coloured lights all the way. Even some big trees were full of lights. For some it is okay to spend public money in this way but at some areas and buildings such as the Kota Cemerlang building, it is too much.

On the grounds of the municipality building (Graha Makmur), one would notice a giant clock decorated with flowers. The locals called it ‘jam bunga’. It was said to cost the municipality RM500,000 to build.

Down the road, after passing the ‘flower clock’, one will come across the Bukit Sebukor man-made waterfall. It cost the public RM1.78 million to build this so-called ‘highest man-made’ waterfall in the country. The RM1.78 million does not stop there however, as the people would have to continually fund for its electricity and maintenance.

Nowadays express buses rarely take the Ayer Keroh-Bukit Sebukor-Melaka road to Melaka Sentral; the drivers prefer the Ayer Keroh-Batu Berendam-Melaka road. On this road, one would notice the new gleaming Melaka International Airport.

This old Lapangan Terbang Batu Berendam has undergone a RM131 million project to extend the runaway with a second extension and upgrading works carried out to enable it to cater to Boeing 737A and Airbus 320A.

Covering 7,000 square meters, the airport’s new terminal has facilities for domestic and international flights and can handle 1.5 million passengers annually. All went smoothly, so what’s the problem?

The Chief Minister was ambitious with this (or his) project, but local and international carriers including the low cost ones such as AirAsia and Lion Air were not keen in using the airport because it was not far away from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang.

From the yer Keroh Toll Plaza to these airports, traveling time is only about an hour, so it feasible for carriers to invest money by operating in this airport. Millions of ringgit has been spent to upgrade the airport facilities, and now it seems that it will become another white elephant in the state.

About 15 minutes drive from the airport one would reach Melaka Sentral. This centre sits on 46.6 acres of land in Peringgit, cost RM53 million to build, consists of three main components – the bus and taxi terminals, the central market and the bazaar. It was opened by then Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on 14th May 2004.

Now ugly cracks could be seen along the bus boarding platforms at the bus terminal; tiles broken; their sharp edges posing danger to unsuspecting passengers. The uneven floor due to the sinking ground condition has made the condition worse.

Some time ago the central market building too was declared unsafe and was closed to give way to repair works after cracks were found in the building. During that period traders had to do business in the market parking lot.

Not far away from Melaka Sentral, the Sungai Melaka flows lazily downstream where rigorous, glamorous and big projects are already there or on going to be built or constructed. Among others were the beautifying and cleaning of the Melaka River with the first phase costing RM120 million and the second amounting to RM90 million.

Now on tone bank of Sungai Melaka, runs a monorail line of about one kilometer which cost the government some RM16.5 million to build. The joke that went around the state was that the tram broke down on its first day of service. It was of no benefit to the ordinary local commuters but to serve tourists who would pay a fare of RM10.

I have no objection in paying taxes, but those in power should be thrifty and transparent on public money because everything including the usage of 1 sen woul be accountable in front of Allah SWT the Almighty.

To those concerned please remember the story of the Caliph Umar Abdul Aziz who put off the state lamp and lighted his own private one when discussing family matters with his son!

No comments: