Cleanliness Is Our Responsibility

By Fathol Zaman Bukhari

I was pleasantly surprised (amused is a better word) when returning home one day I saw Council officers ripping and removing ah long banners and posters hung on lamp posts, road signages and tree trunks along the main road leading into my taman. My immediate reaction was one of joy because these ubiquitous banners have long been a bane among Ipohites. They have become a nuisance, as their presence not only mar the landscape but debase the value of properties in the vicinity. Unfortunately, these ah long advertising paraphernalia have, unwittingly, become an integral part of our society following the global recession of the early 1980s.

I rushed home and alerted my wife who went out with her smartphone, in hand. She wanted to record this epic-making moment for posterity. She managed to capture one officer who was in the midst of ripping a poster from a lamp post. He smiled and gave a thumbs-up, signaling his eagerness to be photographed.

But that was about it. When we returned to the spot minutes later there were no officers and no more ripping actions. How disappointing. Was it a gimmick to show the Council’s seriousness in tackling the problem or a knee-jerk reaction by subordinates after a dressing-down by their superiors?

I tend to believe the latter as this scenario happens too often in the army whenever the heat gets into the soldiers’ skins. I speak for myself. When orders from the colonels and generals become so regular, those down the line would do anything to appease them. That is the mantra. And I feel that is the way with the Council officers. I mean no malice, as I am only saying the obvious.

On the plus side, I must admit that Mayor Zamri Man is doing a marvelous (but thankless) job in spite of the many obstacles. These obstacles generally come from the “little napoleons” who are averse to changes. Little rascals exist in every organisation and Ipoh City Council is no exception. A well-meaning directive may be misconstrued as an intrusion into their space and thus the resistance. Objection can be subtle without anyone knowing. Delaying tactics and claiming ignorance are two favourite methods to frustrate an order deemed unfavourable to the little devils.

Notwithstanding that, I feel cleanliness is our responsibility. We cannot depend too much on the Council to keep our housing estates clean without getting our hands dirty. My wife and I were appalled by the unsightly trash left by some of our uncaring neighbours. They do not care much where they discard their rubbish and treat the whole taman as one huge rubbish bin. Thus the roads and the areas around their houses become fair game.

After much soul searching we decided to clean the road fronting our house and the field, the taman’s green lung, ourselves, rather than wait for the Council to do so. I must thank my wife for she is relentless in her quest for cleanliness. With a broom, a rake, a pan and a plastic bag she went on the offensive sweeping the road in the wee hours of the morning. I went around removing ah long banners and posters on my bicycle. It worked.

Our erstwhile reluctant neighbours, unlike before, are beginning to clean their compounds now. It is a healthy sign. The rippling-down effect is having a positive impact on everyone. And with some help from Syahrizal Azmi, the Council’s hard-pressed but obliging Public Relations Officer, civility has come to my neck of the woods.

There are a couple of illegal dumpsites in my taman which keep appearing the moment they are cleared. I traced the culprits to small-time contractors. They would conveniently dispose household rubbish at these two sites early in the morning or late at night when no one is observing. Arresting them is the only option left.

Incidentally, the Council has a solution for illegal dumpsites. If you see one send a photo and details via Whatsapp to this number 019 550 3083. I have tried and it works. The other alternative is to call up your zone councillor. Check up the Council’s website for the appointed zone councillors. They have the means to act, and this has been assured by none other than the mayor himself.

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