On our way up to Ipoh last Saturday, we were caught in crawling traffic at the North-South Expressway about 2km from the Bukit Tagar Interchange. We thought it was a police roadblock. The 30 minutes driving at a snail’s pace on a road with a 110 km/h speed limit certainly felt like an eternity.
Somewhere before the Bukit Tagar Interchange at the North-South Expressway.
Photo by Wuan.
When we reached the head of the queue, we saw that it was not a road block. Drivers had slowed down to have a better look at the police and PLUS personnels peering down the ravine by the side of the road. The centre and side guardrails on the northbound direction were badly mangled and broken. We guessed that it must have been a very large vehicle to be able to cause such serious damage. Although the scene had been cleaned up, it was still littered with smaller pieces of debris.
Rescue personnel at the site of the accident.
Photo by Wuan.
It was only when I read the news the next day that I knew what happened.
The following is an excerpt from The Star (June 20, 2010), Five die in separate road accidents:
Che Hussin (Selangor public order and traffic chief) said two members of a family were killed half an hour later, and four others were injured when the car they were travelling in was hit by a tanker coming from across the opposite side of the NSE at Km418 after it lost control.
Roslawati Hassan, 43, and her youngest child, one-year-old Mohd Faiz Haikal, were killed at the scene while her husband and three other children were seriously injured.
The tanker, which was heading south, plunged into a ravine.
The driver, who was pinned to his seat, suffered serious injuries.
The injured were sent to the Sungai Buloh Hospital.
Although driving on the expressway with guardrails separating opposite traffic is safer than driving on state roads, we have to be aware of oncoming traffic. There have been cases of vehicles crashing through the centre guardrails and collide head-on with vehicles on the other side.
Broken guardrail and a tyre by the ravine.
Photo by Wuan.
I am most cautious with express buses. Many times, I have been overtaken by these heavy vehicles while driving at around 110 km/h. One can imagine how fast they were hurtling down the road when their speed limit on the expressways is 90 km/h only.
Mangled centre guardrails, tyre skid marks and traffic cones to caution drivers.
Photo by Wuan.
These vehicles, with their mass and number of passengers they carry, will cause the most damage should they be involved with an accident. Drivers of such heavy vehicles who constantly flout the rules should be taken off the road. They are a nuisance and danger to the safety of other road users.
Thanks to Lilei Chow who forwarded news articles on Malaysia becoming the latest signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Malaysia signed the convention on April 8, 2008. This is a milestone in the disability movement in our country.
However, the same news articles did not mention if Malaysia also signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and whether Malaysia had reservations towards some of the articles in the CRPD. The Optional Protocol enables individuals whose rights are violated to seek redress from the Committee of Persons with Disabilities after exhausting all the remedies of national laws.
The United Nations Enable page on Convention and Protocol Signatories and Ratification listed Malaysia as having only signed the Convention. The government should show its full commitment by also signing the Protocol and at the same time ratify the Convention soonest possible.
At the same time, the government should also consider drawing up an anti-discrimination law to protect the rights of disabled people. The Persons With Disabilities Bill is non-punitive and therefore toothless. The Uniform Building By-Law 34-A (UBBL 34A) under the Streets, Drainage and Buildings Act must also be strictly enforced to ensure that all public buildings are fully accessible. It is high time the By-Law includes external environment as it currently does not require that those places be accessible to disabled people.
The UBBL 34A is a good example of how the rights of disabled people are not not being protected by a piece of legislation that has been in existence since the mid-90s. The government has had fifteen years to do what is required in the By-Law but they have done little. Therefore I wonder how the Persons with Disabilitie Bill will be any different when past laws have proven otherwise.
Nevertheless, having signed the Convention, the government should now get down to implementing the policies on disabilities to ensure that disabled people are accorded their equal and rightful place in society. Policies that discriminates should be removed with immediate effect. Infrastructure in the forms of public transport and built environment should be made accessible to all.
The government can begin by ensuring that RapidKL, Rapid Penang, Star LRT and all government facilities are accessible to disabled people within a fixed time frame. The other issues that must be looked into are education, employment and the provision of independent living support to people with severe disabilities. Are we up to it? Time will tell. Until then, I am reservedly optimistic. I have experienced too many empty promises and poorly enforced legislation to believe that things will change for the better any time soon.
The Star Online
Thursday April 10, 2008
Malaysia signs UN convention on disabled
NEW YORK: Malaysia has signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the United Nations headquarters here.
The Malaysian Government was represented by Datuk Faizah Mohd Tahir, Secretary General of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, said a statement issued by her entourage.
The signing was witnessed by Annebeth Rosenboom, chief of the treaty section at the UN’s Office of Legal Affairs, Malaysia Consular at New York Raja Nurshirwan Zainal Abidin, and National Population and Family Development director Aminah Abdul Rahman.
The Convention entitles the disabled to the full enjoyment of all human rights and ensures full and effective participation as well as inclusion in society, on an equal basis with others.
The eight general principles of the Convention are:
* Respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy; * Non-discrimination; * Full and effective participation and inclusion in society; * Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity; * Equality of opportunity; * Accessibility; * Gender equality and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities; and * Respect for the rights of children with disabilities to develop and preserve their identities.
The signing shows the Government’s concern and commitment following the formulation of the Policy on Persons with Disabilities and its Plan of Action, the Persons with Disabilities Act 2007 and the recent appointment of a disabled person as a senator, the statement said.
April 09, 2008 18:44 PM
KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 (Bernama) — Malaysia is now a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a treaty that upholds and safeguards the rights of people with disabilities to be independent and to live with dignity and respect.
Women, Family and Community Development Ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Faizah Mohd Tahir signed the treaty for Malaysia at a ceremony held at the United Nations’s (UN) headquarters in New York Tuesday.
According to a statement from the ministry, the signing of the convention was witnessed by UN’s Office of Legal Affairs’ Chief of Treaty Section Annebeth Rosenboom, Malaysia’s Counsellor in New York Raja Nurshirwan Zainal Abidin and Director of National Population and Family Development Aminah Abdul Rahman.
The long-awaited convention underlines eight general principles which include respect for inherent dignity and individual autonomy, non-discrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, respect for difference, and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity.
The statement said the signing of the convention showed the government’s concern and commitment following the formulation of the Policy on Persons with Disabilities and its plan of action.
Wuan and I set off from Kuala Lumpur at 10.30am after she voted at Pandan Perdana. We had expected to begin our journey at 9.00am but the polling centre here was packed and there was a queue. When we got on the North-South Expressway, the sky was bluer than blue with white puffy clouds wrapping the horizon. That is my kind of weather. Rain was forecasted for the afternoon and evening. I wondered if I would be caught and wondered how I was going to get into the polling station in the deluge.
Crawl at the North-South Expressway.
Photo by Wuan.
There was a slow crawl the entire stretch from Rawang to Slim River, partly due to the widening of the expressway and the unusually heavy traffic. In our many journeys north, we had never experienced such traffic condition. Were people heading up north to vote in their hometowns? The most telling sign was that most of the cars sported Perak, Penang and Kedah number plates.
The usually busy Tapah RSA (Rest and Service Area) was packed to the brim with vehicles and people. We decided not to stop for toilet break and pushed on to Ipoh. It was surprising that we made good time on the road despite the crawl before Slim River. We drove into Kinta City Shopping Centre for a quick lunch. When we got out from that place, it began to rain and boy did it pour.
One of the vehicles in the 10-car pile up somewhere near Kamunting.
Photo by Wuan.
One of the best things that William taught us to invest on was a bottle of Rain X. No, this is not a sponsored post or a paid endorsement for that product. It repelled water from the windscreen in heavy rain and improved visibility to a great extent. At higher speeds, rainwater just flowed away as soon as it hit the windscreen. There even was not a need to run the wiper. That was how good it was. The only thing it could not do was repel the fine mist of water churned up by the wheels of the vehicles in the front.
Somewhere between Kamunting and Taiping, traffic came to a crawl again. We inched slow. The cause was a ten-car pile up on the right lane. Most of the vehicles had very badly bashed in boots and bonnets. As far as I could see, there were no critical injuries, just badly shaken drivers with shocked looks in their faces standing in the rain looking at their wreck vehicles and wondering how the mishap could have happened.
Car with the bonnet torn away in an accident somewhere near Taiping.
Photo by Wuan.
For a while after that, we were in the midst of cautiously driven vehicles. Nevertheless, the gory sight of mangled cars was repeated six times after that. All along the way, there was no sign of ambulances. That I took to be a good sign as it indicated that nobody was critically injured in those accidents. I can attribute three factors that cased the accidents – speeding in low-visibility, slippery road conditions and hydroplaning. There is a stretch of expressway from Taiping and Juru where rainwater tends to gather into invisible puddles that may cause speeding cars to lose traction unexpectedly.
A short distance after the Juru toll plaza, I was almost caught in an accident. I was following a car that was following a small lorry. The bus that the lorry was following suddenly braked. The lorry followed suit but it skidded and momentarily spun out of control. The car in front swerved to avoid the lorry. I hit the brakes and swerved left to avoid the car. Fortunately there was no traffic behind me. We found out that the bus had suddenly braked because there was an accident right in front of it. Thank God for ABS that prevented our car from skidding.
Another accident along the North-South Expressway.
Photo by Wuan.
The moment we reached Penang, I became fidgety. Traffic into the city was crawling. It was already 3.45pm. Polling ends at 5.00pm. At the rate we were moving I estimated that I may not be able to reach the polling centre in time. Moreover, the rain was not letting up. It would be a wasted effort to drive almost 400km and not being able to cast my two votes.
I took several shortcuts but I was not making good time. Traffic was slow everywhere. At 4.25pm, I was stuck in yet another jam at Jalan Lim Lean Teng which is about 2km from the polling centre. The rain became even heavier. I was beginning to lose hope. Did I go all the way to Penang only to arrive at the polling centre after it closed? Desperation and frustration gripped me. Wuan tried to console me but at that moment, I was inconsolable.
The truck churning up a fine mist and causing poor visibility along the North-South Expressway.
Photo by Wuan.
The moment we turned into Jalan Terengganu, the road was clear but water was fast rising at the junction with Jalan P. Ramlee. This area is famous for it notorious floods during monsoon seasons. I have lived in this area for 22 years and I knew it like the back of my hand but time was running out. As I slowly inched our way in the ankle-height water, I kept looking at the dashboard clock.
It was raining very heavily and we reached the entrance to SM Sri Mutiara which was the polling station for me to cast my vote. I turned into the school but the policeman on duty stopped me. I told him I am an OKU (disabled person) and he gave me the thumbs up sign and allowed me to drive in. It was already 4.30pm. Wuan and I have been on the road for six hours already.
Tow truck operators having a field day with the numerous accidents along the North-South Expressway.
Photo by Wuan.
She took my identity card and went to get the number for my polling stream. A polling centre has several polling streams – the room where voters are given their ballot paper and cast their votes. Mine was 3. In the heavy rain, she got my wheelchair from the boot and assisted me out from the car. A helpful staff of the polling station shielded us from the rain with an umbrella.
After that, it was all a breeze. Wuan got me into the polling room. I presented my identity card. It number and my name was read out loud by the polling officer for the polling agents from the respective political parties. I was given two folded sheets of paper. At the cubicle, I unfolded the first sheet. Jeff Ooi’s name was there. It was a surreal moment when I pressed the pencil on the ballot paper and wondered if I was marking in the right box.
Slow-moving traffic at the Penang Bridge heading towards the island.
Photo by Wuan.
Having marked the ballot paper for the Parlimentary seat, I unfolded the one for the state seat. I hesitated for a moment. I have never really thought about who I wanted to vote for the state seat. Should I vote like how most Penangites would vote – Parliament for the DAP and state for the Barisan Nasional? I must have spent a little too much time trying to decide because the polling officer manning the ballot boxes stood up and took a peek at me wondering what was taking me so long. I looked at him, smiled and quickly marked the paper, folded it back and slotted them into the respective ballot boxes.
Bryan was there waiting when I got out from the polling room. He helped Wuan to get me into the car. I was touched that he came in the rain to assist me at the polling station. As I was rushing to drop in at my apartment to collect some belongings and than drive back to Kuala Lumpur, we did not have much opportunity to chat. We bade farewell and promised to catch up again the next time I am in Penang.
Jeff Ooi and Law Heng Kiang election billboard outside McDonalds Green Lane.
Photo by Wuan.
The journey back was smooth all the way. We wondered where all the traffic had disappeared to. Perhaps Wuan and I were the only crazy people who drove all the way to Penang just to vote and drove back to Kuala Lumpur immediately after that. We reached home at 1am, tired, hungry and in dire need of a bath. By then, news had trickled in that the informal alliance of DAP, PKR and PAS had the majority seats in Penang to form the next state government, that Jeff Ooi, Tony Pua and Teresa Kok were voted in, and Tan Sri Koh Tsu Koon, Datuk Teng Hock Nan, Dato’ Sri Sharizat Abdul Jalil and Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun did not make it.
Was it worth the effort that Wuan and I had driven 800km in 15 hours just to mark two sheets of ballot paper? The answer is a resounding YES! That was the first and probably the last time I am voting in Penang. I will soon change my address and voting constituency from Jelutong and DUN Datuk Keramat to Pandan and DUN Teratai in Selangor where DAP’s Jenice Lee was voted in. Nonetheless, I hope the incoming Penang state government will keep their election promises and live up to the trust and mandate that Penangites had given them.