Will we now lay down the law?


SO IT’S finally happened. Just three weeks after concerns were raised over the inconvenience of illegal boom gates during an emergency, a young mother and child died in a fire. It was reported that firemen rushing to the home of Annie Ong in Taman Sri Sinar, Kepong, just before dawn last Saturday were delayed for a few minutes as they had to cut a lock on an unmanned illegal barrier. These are precious minutes which could have saved Annie and her two-year-old daughter Artina.

We have always had this debate with Petaling Jaya city councilors that illegal barriers are just that – illegal. Unfortunately, they have succumbed to the demands of ratepayers. And since there are also political considerations, many of these lawmakers do not have a straight answer for you as they tiptoe around the issue, with little or no commitment.

Hence you have access limited on public roads; residents of one neighbourhood not having access to common playgrounds as they are cordoned off by boom gates – some of which are manned by security guards who demand identification cards – and emergency vehicles unable to get to people in need on time.

If there are security guards, why the need for barriers at a main access?

The police of course are happy with this flouting of the Road Transport Act, the Local Government Act and a host of other health and safety ordinances as it makes their job easier.

Granted, boom gates have reduced crime in these areas, but it has become a free for all due to lax regulation. Even the council is stumped on how to manage them, as residents ask this simple
question: "Who’s going to be responsible when our homes are broken into?"

One wonders if the guidelines on boom gates are enforceable, or if they are negated by enactments that precede them. This is something that Calven Loke, the bereaved husband and father in this instance, may want to explore as he contemplates taking action against the negligent parties.

But the sad case of Annie and Artina just reinforces the less than ideal environment we live in. If only police resources are better managed, would it be possible to have more crime prevention patrols? Would the regular presence of the men in blue be comforting enough for residents not to put up "checkpoints" on public roads?

Would it embolden local councils to lay down the law and ensure public accesses are not obstructed?

When townships are planned or housing estates approved, are crime prevention contingencies taken into account? The police have often complained that they are never consulted when housing development is approved – and they have a point, because at the end of the day when something happens, it is the already stretched force which has to clean up the mess.

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I SPENT the week in Kerdau and Merlimau observing the action and excitement stemming from the double by-election.What strikes me the most come polls time is the generosity displayed by the campaigners of contesting parties. This generosity sometimes borders on the uncomfortable and unnerving.

For instance this time around, someone pressed three RM50 notes into my hand during a walkabout as duit minyak because I came from far. It did not stop there. They even wanted to settle my hotel room bill.

Of course I said "no, thank you", and explained that journalists are reimbursed for their transport and accommodation. "All we ever want is a good story," I said.

To my dismay I was told that the understanding is that some newsmen expect to be handsomely reimbursed. My response to the politician and his aides is that if this is true, these reporters and pixmen are a disgrace to the profession. However, these politicians and their supporters are also to be blamed for encouraging such parasitic behaviour by buying their way to favourable and prominent coverage.

Perhaps the Election Commission should keep a lookout for this form of "vote buying" which is also sullying the press. The Fourth Estate has enough challenges in being truly free and fair without having to be overrun by black sheep who can be compromised by a few ringgit.

Terence is senior editor (news) at theSun. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com.