Interrupted Journey

With the fuel price increase, my friend Robert and I wanted to take a bus to Suria KLCC two Saturdays ago. We wanted to avoid driving there like we always did to save on petrol and the exorbitant parking fees. We stay in Pandan Perdana which is about a 15-minute journey by car from the landmark. We knew that RapidKL buses serving our housing estate were inaccessible but we wanted to try our luck to see if anything has changed since. The following two pictures tell a compelling story that disabled people all over Malaysia are facing.

RapidKL bus at Pandan Perdana
Photo by Wuan.

RapidKL bus at Pandan Perdana
Photo by Wuan.

Without an accessible public transport system, most of us are stuck at home watching the world pass by. We have to miss out on educational and employment opportunities. Our social life is limited to people who come to visit us at home which is far and few in between. We are unable to participate effectively in social, cultural, religious and political activities. We are like katak di bawah tempurung (frog living under the coconut shell) not due to our own doing but because our needs are ignored and are often delegated to the lowest of priorities. If nothing is being done to address this issue, disabled people will still be in this deplorable situation when Malaysia becomes a developed nation by 2020 which is just a short 12 years away.

Peter Tan Objects To Sending The 2nd Malaysian Astronaut Into Space

As a citizen of Malaysia, I hereby object to the suggestion to send the second astronaut into space at the cost of US$30mil (RM102mil) as reported by The Star (Normal to pick space crew at the last minute, says JJ – Tuesday September 25, 2007).

“If Malaysians want him to be sent to space too, I will raise the matter up with the Cabinet. He is after all, ready and able.

He added that the cost of sending the second Malaysian astronaut was estimated to be US$30mil (RM102mil).

This amount can be better used to improve the lives of thousands, if not millions, of our fellow Malaysians. I speak from the viewpoint of a disabled person. This money can be utilised to make the environment and public transport accessible, and support people with severe disabilities who are practicing independent living. These include providing funds for personal assistants and other support services. RM102mil is a lot of money and it should be used judiciously to benefit the most number of people.

For starters, the people at RapidKL kept saying that they do not have the money to make the public transport system under their management accessible. This RM102mil can go a log way towards achieving that. I have spoken to the State Assemblyman for Teratai YB Yap Soo Sun who said that Majlis Perbandaran Ampang Jaya does not have the funds to upgrade the walkways in Pandan Perdana into accessible ones because of the shortage of funds. RM102mil can do wonders to make all the walkways accessible. These are two examples how the RM102mil can be better spent. Why look so far away into outer space when things that are right before our eyes still need a lot of money and work? Lets get the priorities right here.

Related entry:
Malaysian Going To Outer Space, Disabled Persons Still Stuck At Home

RapidKL And RapidPenang – Will Disabled Persons In Malaysia Ever Get To Ride in Public Buses?

Najib also said that the Transport Ministry was taking steps to address complaints by the disabled community that RapidKL and Rapid Penang buses were not disabled-friendly despite their earlier appeals.

The Star – Thursday August 9, 2007: New, bigger LCCT to be built

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s statement concerning RapidKL and RapidPenang is most welcomed. However, nasi sudah jadi bubur. It is good if the Ministry of Transport make good the statement by Dato’ Seri Najib but I should not be faulted for being cynical. Despite assurances by Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop in the press on March 18, 2007 that RapidPenang’s buses will be “disabled friendly” none were. On top of that RapidKL Chief Operating Officer Mohd. Ali Mohd. Nor informed the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) during a meeting on March 10 that the 150 buses for RapidPenang would be accessible to wheelchair users which obviously was misleading.

Retrofiting the buses already running on the roads in Penang is going to cost a lot more as compared to bringing in non-step buses in the beginning. The reason for not acquiring non-step buses for RapidPenang was given by Penang State Traffic Management Committee Chairman Dato’ Dr. Teng Hock Nan on April 26. He was reported by The Star in Buses for disabled later to have said, “The state government will bring in buses equipped with facilities for wheelchair passengers once the new RapidPenang bus system is running smoothly” because “buses with facilities for wheelchair passengers would have to stop longer for boarding and could disrupt arrival schedules.” I wrote an entry to rebut his baseless and discriminatory statement.

As for RapidKL, 100 non-step buses that they brought in were fitted with ramps and wheelchair docking systems without consultation with disabled persons on whether the fittings would be functional and safe. When BEAT viewed the buses for the first time after they were fitted, we informed Mohd. Ali Mohd. Nor that the ramps were too short and were poorly designed. In later meetings with RapidKL Corporate Communications Division Senior Manager Katherine Chew we were told that the fittings were of international standards. When questioned further what international standards were used, we were told on one occasion that it was the Swedish standards and another occasion the Australian standards. Whatever standards that were used, they certainly did not meet Malaysian disabled persons’ standards as the ramps and docking systems were neither safe nor functional. The accessible buses were to be launched on June 1 has been postponed indefinitely because of those concerns raised by BEAT.

In a meeting on May 25 chaired by the Timbalan Ketua Setiausaha (Perancangan) Kementerian Pengangkutan Malaysia Datuk Long See Wool regarding accessibility in public transport initiated by Minister of Transport Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy, BEAT was informed that RapidKL buses do not come under the Ministry of Transport. The Ministry of Entrepreneur and Co-operative Development are responsible for issuing licenses to buses and taxis. Therefore Datuk Seri Najib’s statement that “the Transport Ministry was taking steps to address complaints by the disabled community that RapidKL and Rapid Penang buses were not disabled-friendly despite their earlier appeals” came as a surprise. Which ministry exactly is in-charge of RapidKL? I would also like to know what steps the Ministry of Transport are taking to enable disabled persons, especially wheelchair users, to use public transport. Why was this issue not addressed at the planning stages of RapidPenang especially when BEAT had already handed a recommendation to Dato’ Seri Chan Kong Choy on March 12? The following is an extract from the recommendation:

Pengangkutan Awam Di Pulau Pinang
BEAT mengalu-alukan pengumuman oleh Perdana Menteri pada 20 Februari 2007 bahawa Rapid KL akan menubuhkan satu rangakaian bas awam di Pulau Pinang yang diberi nama RapidPenang. Kami berharap RapidPenang tidak membuat kesilapan sama seperti di Lembah Klang di mana keseluruhan perkhidmatan bas awam adalah tidak mudahcapai dan tidak mesra OKU.

Kami berharap Kementerian Pengangkutan bekerjasama dengan Kementerian Kewangan dan mana-mana kementerian lain yang berkenaan untuk mendapatkan bas non-step untuk kesemua 150 buah bas yang dibeli kelak. Golongan OKU tidak seharusnya menderita disebabkan oleh kesilapan sesetengah pihak yang tidak mengambil kira keperluan OKU dan mereka yang mengalami kesulitan pergerakan yang ingin menggunakan perkhidmatan bas awam.

Pada masa yang sama, rancangan rel bandaraya Pulau Pinang yang telah diluluskan mesti mudahcapai kesuluruhannya apabila beroperasi nanti. Tidak ada sebab yang munasabah mengapa golongan OKU disisihkan lagi dalam projek ini yang sepatutnya memanfaatkan semua lapisan masyarakat.

Dalam pada itu, kami menyeru Kementerian Pengangkutan, Kementerian Kewangan, Rapid KL, RapidPenang dan mana-mana pihak yang mewakili pengurusan projek tersebut untuk berbincang dengan pihak-pihak yang mempunyai kepentingan (stakeholders) dalam perkhidmatan bas awam di Pulau Pinang, khususnya pengguna-pengguna bas dan pertubuhan-pertubuhan OKU untuk menyelami keperluan mereka serta mendapatkan maklumbalas dan keperluan mereka dalam pembangunan yang terbaru ini.

I rest my case.