By Jerry Francis
Recently, I read in a national daily how the folks in Kuching take pride in keeping their city clean and tidy. It made me green with envy because it is a far cry from our city. Remember, Ipoh was also once, the cleanest city in the country when it was just a municipality and its presidents and councillors were elected by the residents.
However, ever since local government elections in the country were abolished, and Ipoh was upgraded to city status with its Mayor picked from among government servants, the situation in the city has deteriorated.
At times, the Mayor’s appointment appear to be just ‘a golden handshake’ to loyal senior government officers prior to their retirement, while the councillors are usually made up of mid-level political leaders from the component parties of the ruling coalition, whose appointments are seen as rewards for their loyalty. Therefore both the Mayor and councillors are not answerable to any electorate or in this case to the ratepayers, but only to their political masters for their appointments.
And so all efforts to bring back Ipoh’s lost image as the cleanest city have failed. Mayor after mayor continually echoed the same excuse for their failures to keep the city clean.
Will the current mayor, Dato’ Harun Rawi, show any impact or will he too echo the same excuse as his predecessors – blaming the failure to a clean and beautiful city on the lack of co-operation from the residents? If such an excuse is to be given every time, then there is no hope at all for Ipoh to be a clean city, let alone the cleanest one.
Furthermore, it is unfair to just blame the residents. There are many residents, who are concerned about keeping the city clean. The fact that there have been numerous complaints continually received by the press show that the residents want the city to be clean.
Has anyone actually looked into why the folks in Kuching are serious about keeping their city clean and tidy? According to the national daily, shopkeepers start their day sweeping the front of their premises, “some even to the extent of mopping the walkway and clearing drains”.
Certainly, they are all not born with such a quality of civic consciousness. So, what had inspired them? Perhaps it is the good governance shown by their local authorities, which have won various international awards.
The Ipoh City Council needs to organise a study tour to Kuching to look into why and how the residents were moved into keeping their city clean.
We, in the Ipoh Echo, have carried out various efforts to instil cleanliness and beautifying Ipoh. Poorly maintained public facilities, illegal dumpsites, and clogged drains in the city are being continually highlighted to inspire both the city council and the residents to be rid of them.
Our “Dirt Vigilantes” campaign too, has not been successful. The Ipoh City Council appears to ignore it. The only time we had seen some success, a temporary one though, was when the then Raja Muda of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah (now His Highness the Sultan of Perak) showed his concern over the rampant illegal dumpsites in Gunung Rapat about two years ago.
Doesn’t the Mayor and the city councillors realise that they need to set a good example by making a concerted and determined effort to keep the city clean? Only then can they expect the residents to be inspired to give their co-operation.
Mayor Harun’s “gag order” to the city councillors not to speak to the press is also not a good move. The city councillors must be made answerable to the situation in their respective zones.