By Jerry Francis
Seventy-four-year-old retired lorry driver, Yeoh Say Bah, has become a celebrity in Taman Tinggi and surrounding housing estates in Ipoh. Every morning from Monday to Friday, if the weather permits, he is seen keeping the children’s playground and its jogging track near his house clean and tidy.
It began about six months ago when he decided to pick up a cangkul and started to trim the grass around the track, as well as collecting litter and ensuring the drains were not clogged. Dressed neatly in short pants and shirt, he begins the routine at 5am and finishes at about 8.30am. He starts by collecting litter and pieces of broken bottles and checking the drains.
In the beginning, everyone thought Say Bah was just an eccentric. While most of the senior citizens are taking a morning walk around the track daily, he is keeping himself busy by cleaning it.
Not only does he clean round the 400-metre circular jogging track once but goes a second time. The residents, particularly the estimated 50 regular morning walkers and joggers, frequently stop to have a friendly chat with this old talkative man with a mission. They are very appreciative of his work. Some have even raised a small contribution to get him a new cangkul.
Driven by curiosity, I set out to find what had driven Say Bah into carrying out the task, which the Ipoh City Council should be doing? I interrupted him recently while he was busy trimming the jogging track and posed the question.
“No-one prompted me to do this. I was just dismayed over the city council’s failure to properly maintain the playground and jogging track and decided to do my part,” he explained. “I can’t bear to see all the litter, clogged drains and overgrown grass around. By doing something, I am also getting some morning exercise,” he added in a positive spirit.
“I’m glad the residents in this area are appreciative of what I am doing. I hope I can inspire them to keep the area clean and tidy,” he said. He hopes to set a good example through his effort.
Say Bah has personally appealed to the youths who frequently ‘lepak’ in the playground, not to litter and smash bottles on the concrete jogging track as the pieces of glasses could hurt those using the track, particularly children. He told them that he would not mind collecting the litter daily if they could leave them in one place.
He was amused when some city council’s health inspectors came to check on aedes mosquitoes in his house. “I’m disappointed with the city council,” said Say Bah, who is very vocal in his criticism of the city council.
“Why inspect the houses which have no mosquito breeding grounds? They should first inspect the drains around the housing estate and clear the overgrown bushes and the rubbish dumps regularly,” he stressed.
He claimed that the city council was not efficient. “If only I can write I would send complaint after complaint to the city council and the state government every day,” he said.
Say Bah is one of the many civic-conscious residents in the city. There are other similar “unsung heros” like him – doing the work for the city council, to prove that the residents do care about keeping the city clean.