Oh YB, where's your crisis management skills?(Posted on 11.17am Jul 30, 2001)

To the elected representatives I must say: Show me your crisis management skills, or speak the truth.

I find it inexplicable why policymakers, politicians, appointed local councillors and even contractors continue to treat the ratepayers and the community with such contempt except during the run-up of an election or by-election?

Why is it so difficult for them to come out with the plain truth when a question is being raised?

Whether it is a matter of a controversial construction building costing ratepayers millions of ringgit, or of increases in toll rates, transport services, costs of goods including chickens, the people are often led on a "merry go round" before the reality of the truth is told in plain simple language!

Why the goose-chase? Whose felt needs is met by this? Let us look at some fine examples.

Recently, a group of residents decided to protest publicly at the Sprint Highways Damansara Link Toll Plaza.

I was made to understand that, prior to that protest, they had on numerous occasions met the Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ), the Malaysian Highway Authority and Sprint Officials to voice their anger, frustrations and disagreement over the said construction of the highway,. They protested because the highway goes by their homes, and now costing them huge amount to pay tolls.

I believe the entire session lasted over an hour, watched under the careful eyes of the security forces! Since it was not election or by-election time, their cries fell on deaf years.

There was sadness in the air, and desperation that a need was not addressed!

In contrast, there was "rejoicing and singing" when an announcement was made the same week by none other than Selangor Executive Councillor Datuk Ahmad Mokhtar Dahalan that the proposed elevated highway to connect Subang Jaya and the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) has been scrapped!

I had written on this matter in this column before.

It was strange that the news was not broken by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Prime Minister's Department, nor the Ministry of Works, but by the Selangor State Executive Councillor who seemed to have made it his crusade to protect the "rights and interests of the residents" (read: The YBs and Datuks) who were going to be "affected by this development"!

Judging by the number of telephone calls I received, this episode has certainly left a lot of ordinary people fuming,

I have some pertinent questions: When and why was it scrapped?

What was the reason for this inexplicable about-turn when barely two months ago the EPU said it had approved the proposal?

It was strange to say the least. But never mind, this is"Bolehland"!

However, the fact remains that all this talk about Local Agenda 21 of consultation with the rakyat and "top down and down up initiatives" advocated by our foreign trained civil service bourgeoisie, are a load of poppycock!

It is very sad that policymakers have yet to learn the art of consulting local communities, before the implementation of the "Manhattan Skyline" obsessed by some senior civil servants, ADUNs and their sidekick contractors!

Here, one is not only speaking of the wastage of public funds at a time when the country can ill afford to behave like a multi-millionaire. It is also an issue of real costs of changing skylines, conversion of open spaces, parks and recreational areas after the implementation.

We have an example of a local council trying to recreate a RM3 million "artificial park" and when controversy looms, it was justified as a project inspired by "the idea of our beloved Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad".

I find this rather strange.

As a Kedah-born and Penang-grown citizen, I have had enough exposure to YAB Prime Minister to know that he is the architect of the modern, progressive Langkawi. From the moment go, it was made clear that modernization and construction must at all times be made without destroying the natural habitat and environment.

This was a rule that the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) followed to the 'T' because it was the concept that YAB PM initiated!

Perhaps, the next time I am at Putrajaya I will approach the PM on this one!

And finally, the raise of domestic airfares. It was initially denied by several quarters, but at last it has become a reality!

When the issue was exposed by an English tabloid, there was total silence by some mainline newspapers, even those who claim to be the "people's paper". When I made calls as a consumer advocate to seek clarifications on the matter, the civil servants and Ministry of Transport officials played hide and seek.

Today, it is made clear once again - that there was truth to the rumours raised on hikes of domestic airfares. I fear that it will escalate and affect prices of other services, goods and efforts to encourage domestic tourism!

But one thing is clear.

The present position confirms that several of our policy-makers, politicians, and elected representatives are ill equipped to handle crisis. Nor are they effective managers of issues. But like it or not, they need to do so fast in view of 2004.

Dr. Jacob George
Subang Jaya