No entitlement please, all potholes are created equal

It’s amusing how potholes are suddenly getting the publicity they deserve after Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin hit a pothole and fell off his bicycle recently.

Articles and memes related to potholes have been making their rounds locally and abroad.

The sudden attention on potholes has been the flavour of the week.

Remember the 2016 incident when Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Dr Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah sat in a pothole in Bukit Rambai, Melaka, as a protest after complaints over road conditions in the area went unheeded?

The pothole was fixed by the Melaka Tengah District Office after Abu Bakar posted about his antics on his Facebook page.

Abu Bakar was back two years later when he “performed prayers” next to a pothole in the same area, hoping those in power would get down to work.

And his prayers were answered just 12 hours later, with the authorities springing into action.

If history is anything to go by, issues involving potholes may only resurface (pun intended) when another VIP (not from the same ministry, I hope) gives publicitiy to another depression in the road.

Jokes aside, potholes are no laughing matter.

Over the years, I have written about injuries, loss of limbs, permanent disability and even deaths stemming from accidents due to potholes and other poor road conditions.

This morning, 75-year-old Ho Yan Fee was riding his motorcycle on Jalan Tengah heading towards Mid Valley, Kuala Lumpur when he hit a pothole, lost control of his bike and fell. He died at the scene of the accident.

From experience, the authorities, be it the Public Works Department or local authorities, only spring to action after a complaint is lodged. That too, with continuous prodding from the media.

In some cases, action had been swift, but in many other cases, one would have to wait for an accident to occur before a pothole was repaired.

There were also instances where those in power played the blame game, pointing fingers at other utility companies for not repairing damaged stretches once they were done laying Internet cables and pipes.

There are also cases where potholes are repaired, only for the problem to resurface a week later due to poor workmanship and material used.

Arguably, potholes are not just a local problem.

Potholes killed 3,597 people and injured 25,000 in India in 2017.

In 2019, the Rio Times Online in Brazil reported that potholes in the city streets contributed to 90 per cent of traffic accidents.

In July last year, Deputy Works Minister Eddin Syazlee Shith said his ministry had met the “zero pothole” target for federal roads that was set in 2016.

If this is the case, then it is time such a policy is introduced at the local government level.

After all, crashes and accidents involving potholes and poorly maintained roads do not just occur on federal roads.

If it can’t be made into a policy (as numerous meetings and taskforces must first be set up), why not for starters make it a new year resolution for 2021?

Seems impossible?

Let’s start praying …

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