Screw you, Penangites!

Penangites have never asked for mega projects in the first place. We have vociferously objected to the PORR (Penang Outer Ring Road) and now the PGCC (Penang Global City Centre). Penang has developed too fast too soon for its own good. Roads are congested. Property price is getting ridiculous. Whatver is left of the beach in Gurney Drive is full of rubbish.

What Penangites want is sustainable development, not showy mega projects. These projects benefit only certain parties more than the people of Penang. That is why we are so against it. The previous government never bothered to listen to the voices of the people. They deserve the fate that befell them.

So, if Penang UMNO is going to “persuade” the Federal Government to scrap all mega projects, I say go ahead. I for one will not shed a tear for the loss of these projects. To the people in Penang UMNO, carry on with this offensive attitude and you will be seeing more seats change hands in the next election.

Friday March 14, 2008

Call to scrap mega projects

PENANG: The state Umno will “persuade” the Federal Government to scrap all the mega projects in the state in view of the people’s clear rejection of Barisan Nasional.

Since Penangites do not want development, the Federal Government should not force it on them, said state Umno liaison committee secretary Datuk Azhar Ibrahim.

He said that this was not Penang Umno taking revenge “but we are actually giving the people what they want”.

Struggle continues: Azhar (third from left), Abdul Rashid (left) and other Penang Umno leaders showing their fighting spirit after the emergency meeting on Thursday. — Bernama

“They voted for change, so let us see what the DAP can do,” he said after the party’s emergency meeting at Menara Umno yesterday.

Azhar, who is Penaga assemblyman, was appointed the state Opposition Leader at the meeting.

Meanwhile, Umno liaison committee deputy chief Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdullah hit out at the new administration for its decision not to practise the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Can Political Change Translate To New Hope For Disabled People?

Now we have four state governments in Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor that are not from the Barisan Nasional, apart from Kelantan that has been held by PAS for the last 18 years. What can the common people expect from this radical change that unexpectedly swept through the entire nation? What can disabled people expect from the Chief Minister of Penang, the Menteri Besars of Kedah, Perak and Selangor? What can disabled people expect from the local governments in terms of accessibility to the built environment and other services provided by these authorities?

In all sincerity, I fervently pray that disabled people will get a better deal from now on. Accessibility to the built environment still poses a major stumbling block to the mobility and independence of disabled people all over Malaysia. As much a we would like to become part of the community that we live in, many of us are still unable to get out from our homes safely because the surrounding areas are fraught with barriers and dangers.

These include walkways without functional ramps for wheelchair users and tactile indicators for the blind. In addition to that, street furniture such as lampposts, signboards and various utility boxes are indiscriminately positioned along the walkways. Some walkways have uncovered manholes. These not only obstruct the passage but poses potential risk of injury to disabled people but to non-disabled people as well.

Oftentimes, by building ramps and placing the wheelchair logo to the doors of toilets, these places are said to be accessible and “disabled-friendly.” This is a very misleading notion. I have encountered ramps that are too steep, too slippery, too long or do not have railings. Such ramps are not functional and are dangerous. I have fallen while using a few. A spacious toilet or one with the wheelchair logo does not necessarily make it suitable for wheelchair users. Grabs bars, toilet bowls, sinks, water hose and even the door itself must be of a certain height and feature for them to be functional

There are standards for such facilities. The Standards & Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) has published the Malaysian Standard 1184 (MS 1184) and Malaysian Standard 1331 (MS 1331) specifically for this purpose. MS 1184 pertains to access for disabled persons to public buildings while MS 1331 is on access outside buildings. The code of practice for these two standards is often ignored. Builders are often left to do their own interpretation of such facilities. Interpretation of such facilities from the viewpoint of non-disabled persons or persons who have no understanding of disability most times render such facilities unusable.

The local governments such as the Majlis Bandaraya Petaling Jaya (MBPJ) and Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya (MPAJ) are responsible in ensuring that those standards are adhered to in public buildings and public amenities. Little has been done to by these authorities with regards to that. A cursory survey of the areas under these two authorities provides ample proof of that fact. My letters to the MPAJ President complaining of dangerous and inaccessible walkways never got a reply. This is another proof that problems of disabled people pertaining to accessibility in the built environment are often ignored and forgotten.

Therefore it is with great hope that with the change in political climate, issues faced by disabled people with regards to accessibility will be given more attention. The new state governments and local authorities have the means to resolve this matter if they are serious about it. One of the ways is to mainstream disability – to accept that disability is society’s problems rather than that of a minority of individuals. Disabled people must be involved in all levels of decision making on matters that affect them. I hope the new powers that be seriously take note of this. We have been ignored and marginalised for far too long. The current development has given us some glimmer of optimism. I hope I am right about this.

What Now After The General Election?

Sleep. Lots of it. I am totally pooped out. Cross country driving this time was exciting but exhausting as well. I can feel what the speakers for the countless ceramahs felt running from one venue to another to convince voters to give them their votes. I am sure the incoming Members of Parliaments and State Assemblymen are as worn out as me after thirteen days of non-stop day and night campaigning all over the country.

Many will also have to nurse their hoarse voices back to good health. After that, they should get down to serious work entrusted to them by the people. Yang Berhormats, please remember your promises to the people. Work on it. Do that with sincerity. Here is wishing newly elected Yang Berhormats all the best in serving the people and the nation.

For the rest of us, life goes on. The excitement of Malaysia’s largest carnival will soon die off. We will go back to our old dreary routines to earn enough to make ends meet. But lets continue to actively engage our elected Parliamentarians and State Assemblymen on issues that affect our rights and that of the nation. It is through such dialogues that we can build a better Malaysia for everyone.