By Mariam Mokhtar

Last month, when Perak MB, Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, was spotted driving a dustcart in the Malim Nawar area, he denied reports that he was performing a "cheap publicity stunt" to garner votes. He was quoted, in Berita Harian, saying, "This (collecting) rubbish is not a question of cheap publicity. So I want to reprimand the opposition...enough. The people can think for themselves which is good and bad.”

Is he aware that ordinary people, and not just the Opposition are thinking that driving the dustcart shows that the general election is close and that it is indeed an attempt to influence public thinking? Why was it necessary to have the media circus in on the act?

There is one other important question which was overlooked by many people when they saw a photo of Dr Zambry behind the wheel of the dustcart.

Was he qualified to drive the dustcart? If he did not have a licence to drive one, the MB was breaking the law. If he did break the law, will the Road Transport Department (RTD) or the police take him to court?

Rubbish is a useful and effective tool which is used by our politicians, to whip-up support, especially in the lead to an election. Why are we so easily manipulated by their empty promises? When the election is over, none of their promises will be kept.

One housewife was asked what she thought of the MB clearing rubbish. She said, "If he, the mayor, and other high ranking officials are seen to be clearing-up rubbish, it suggests that the people who are supposed to do these jobs, are not performing. What are the supervisors doing? Have the management found out why they are ineffective?"

Another person living in Tanjung Rambutan, who regularly travels to the Ipoh city centre said, "Some months ago, I sent pictures to the papers to highlight the rubbish situation in and around Ipoh, but I maintain that nothing has changed."

On the day he drove the dustcart Dr Zambry also said, "What is important is to continue sowing in the minds of the people regarding the importance of preserving cleanliness.”

If he was genuine in his concern about a "clean" Perak, why did he not address our dirty public toilets? Despite documentaries and commercials about the importance of keeping our toilets clean, and the health issues associated with dirty toilets, we are still unable to get the cooperation of the public to address this issue.

Perakeans are not fools. In August, the Urban Well-being, Housing and Local Government Minister, Noh Omar, announced that Ipoh had been chosen as the cleanest city in Malaysia for 2016. Many members of the public were surprised.

One former contractor said, "If Ipoh is the cleanest city in all of Malaysia, then the others must be pig sties. What were the criteria used?"

A teacher, who works in Bercham but lives near Canning Garden said, "What about the fly-tippers? I see piles of rubbish on my way to work, every day. Nothing has changed. When I take my mother shopping at the weekend, we notice that the drains are foul smelling and often blocked. There have been times, when we see workers sweeping the rubbish from the streets, into the drains."

Another resident who lives off Tiger Lane said, "I have stopped phoning the City Council to complain about rubbish. The people who take my complaints are not friendly, nor do they want to know about my problem."

A businessman, whose office is in the city centre said, "Ipoh city centre is probably cleaner than before, but many residential areas are still filthy."

One lawyer said, "If Zambry is an example of the kind of dustmen we have to rely upon, no wonder, the streets of Ipoh are such a mess. Can he decide whether he wants to be an MB or a dustman? If it is the latter, he is Malaysia's most overpaid dustman!"

Peter, who is a retired town planner said, "What are the criteria used to rank Ipoh as the cleanest city in Malaysia? Perhaps, the other towns and cities can learn from the ranking and try to improve their own areas.

"It would be good to see how other towns and cities fared when compared with Ipoh. This way we will learn from the areas in which we excel and those we need to improve. If the results are not shown to the public, Malaysians will be wary about believing them. Transparency is vital in issues like this."