Corrected on 29 Sept 2008 at 2pm
The wheels on the bus go round and round… hopefully not into a ditch (© Rodolfo Clix / sxc.hu)
ON 13 Aug 2007, Malaysians were greeted with the horror of a bus accident that cost the lives of 22 people. As reported in the International Herald Tribune:
“’The impact of the accident ripped off the roof,’ Raja Musa Raja Razak, the police chief of the area, told the [Associated Press] by telephone from the site in Bukit Gantang, about 200km north of Kuala Lumpur.
‘The front portion [of the bus] is mangled. The rest of the body is intact. But the seats [must have been] flying here and there, and there was a lot of blood everywhere,’ he said.”
With Raya just around the corner, bus companies have to ferry Malaysians for balik kampung trips all over the peninsula. I pray that this time around, we shall see fewer accidents, and that the highways will not be too badly jammed up. (But then, I’ve also been praying for people to stop asking me where the heck my girlfriend is every Hari Raya. Allah has yet to grant that prayer, even if it has been made during Lailatul Qadar, the Night of Power, when all prayers are answered. But I digress.)
Before Ramadan this year, our federal government agreed to a 30% surcharge on bus fares for a month beginning from 15 Sept. This surcharge has not been implemented by all bus companies yet, as some are happy to maintain current prices.
We also have the more recent announcement that there will be no extra buses this coming holiday season because factory and school bus owners are refusing to lease out their vehicles.
Business comes first before compassion for their fellow human beings. According to The Star: “Pan Malaysia Bus Operator Association president Datuk Mohamed Ashfar Ali said that based on quotations submitted by its members, many of the school bus and factory bus operators were not keen to lease out their buses.
(© Billy Alexander / sxc.hu)“We can’t offer a higher lease quotation because we don’t make much profit either, and the government won’t let us raise fares,’ he said when contacted by Bernama.”
Whose responsibility is it to be compassionate? The bus owners, or the government giving out subsidies and tightening regulations to help its own citizens balik kampung?
Bus companies are already receiving a lot of help from the federal government. With the approval of a higher diesel allowance, and even a 50% discount on toll charges allocated in the 2009 Budget, what more do they need?
There have been too many cases of bus accidents in recent months, even before the diesel price hike. These buses were not only badly maintained, but also poorly regulated. Heck, it was downright illegal for some to be making trips at all!
The recent raid by the Anti-Corruption Agency on the Computerised Vehicle Test Centre (Puspakom) and the detainment of its employees for corrupt practices also raises serious questions about the safety and maintenance of buses on the road.
What exactly has the government done to disprove the poor safety conditions of our buses? What guarantees are bus companies making towards creating a more secure travelling experience? Maybe all the buses involved in the mass exodus from Pudu and Bukit Jalil should be inspected once again, just to be safe.
Would Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat, Entrepreneur and Cooperatives Development Minister Datuk Noh Omar, or Works Minister Datuk Mohd Zin Mohamad resign in the event of an accident due to poorly maintained buses, lousy road conditions, or bad drivers? I doubt it. (Once upon a time, Noh wouldn’t even admit he told all Chinese nationals to go back to China if they didn’t like it in Malaysia, even when the international press heard him say it.)
When will proper measures be taken to avoid bus accidents? (© Orbán Ferenc / sxc.hu)Many ideas have been contributed by the people, including the need to introduce seat belts on buses for each passenger. Naturally, the recommendation has fallen on deaf ears. A group of students got so furious that they filed a petition demanding that something be done in the name of a friend who was killed in a bus accident. This has also been ignored.
Hari Raya is only a week away, and the cheapest form of transport to get back home is still an express bus driven by drivers who are probably on a high or are extremely tired, in buses that aren’t well-maintained or whose road-safety inspections have involved bribed authorities.
Sadly, at this point, all we can do is pray that there will be no accidents involving our loved ones taking the buses back to their kampungs.
Have a wonderful Ramadan and Aidilfitri.
Ahmad Hafidz Baharom is a paradox. He’s an anti-smoking chain smoker, an environmentalist who leaves his office lights on, a centrist who’s a lalang, and a twenty-something yuppie who dreams of being a slacker. Basically, he’s a lovable moron.