By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
It has become a ritual of sorts for Ipohites, and by extension Malaysians, to wait for the very last minute to pay their dues. It could be the obnoxious utility bill we receive at the end of the month or a parking ticket stuck to our car windscreen by an attentive council parking attendant or an overzealous traffic policeman. Settling the bill and parking compound on time and as per the instruction is not the least of our concern. Many would either delay paying or would conveniently misplace the ticket for no rhyme or reason. The recalcitrant from among us would either discard or destroy the tickets claiming ignorance for their action.
Why do we resort to this when settling a bill or a compound is a responsibility of every law-abiding citizen? Some are prompt with their payment but many I know don’t give two hoots. Is apathy the cause or is it simply an attitude we suffer from? I feel it is a combination of both – apathy because we do not exercise our responsibility judiciously and attitude because most of us have an attitude problem. And compounding this are law enforcement agencies that have lost all sense of direction and credibility.
In a nutshell it is symptomatic of the dichotomy between the two parties – the public and the law enforcement agencies. In the case of Ipohites, it is Ipoh City Council on one end and ratepayers on the other end. Relationship between the two is not only fractious but also fractured. It does not take a rocket scientist to identify this. The writing is on the wall.
I believe at least a hundred compounds are issued daily in the city to motorists and vehicle owners who double park, wrongly park, not parking in the designated lot and worse, triple-parking. The Council’s enforcement officers, in their customary blue uniforms, are hard at work going round the city enforcing the council’s traffic regulations. But how many of these compounds are settled within the required period is beyond me. Things must have reached such a worrying stage that a reprieve is needed each passing year. It has become a habit for Ipohites to wait for the big discount day, which normally comes on City Day or some other auspicious occasions – to pay up.
This year, in conjunction with the 27th City Day celebration and the installation of the new Sultan, a similar discount was announced. The period was three days – May 27 to 29. The response, as expected, was overwhelming despite little publicity and the suddenness of the announcement.
Payment counters at the Council’s main building were ‘mobbed’ by motorists so much so that the Council had to extend operations right to 11pm daily. Additional counters had to be opened at the Urban Transformation Centre in town and the Enforcement Division next to the High Court to cater for the deluge. A total of RM773,134.65 was collected within the three days.
Incidentally, the collection on the final day, May 29 was the highest at RM386,412.25. All in all over 80,000 compounds were settled within the grace period. The 75 per cent discount bait did the trick and it motivated the most stubborn from among the offenders to own up. A few I spoke to had accumulated compounds running to a few thousands ringgits. The 75 per cent reprieve was the biggest ever dished out by the Council. In the past it was only 50 per cent. Whether this is the right thing to do is debatable.
The Council may have lost 75 per cent of its projected revenue from parking infringements but it is hard cold cash it is getting from difficult paymasters. That is the plus point. Having said so, is this the right strategy to employ?
Tempting wrongdoers to pay up by providing discounts is definitely not the answer. It will only encourage Ipohites to delay payment. The Police face a similar problem too and in spite of threats to arrest the culprits, the problem persists.
And now that a precedent has been set, Ipohites will wait for the next ‘gala discount’ to settle their dues. It has become a cat-and-mouse game.