Down2Earth - Leaders who have lost the plot

LAST week social media was abuzz with a story of motorists who refused to give way to a VVIP convoy. The police outriders were flustered when their instructions were not heeded and one wonders if the prime minister who was the VVIP in question made it to his official function on time.

The incident caused a stern response from Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar, who said that those who defy police instructions, including when asked to give way to VIP convoys, are in breach of the Police Act, Road Traffic Act and the Penal Code. The offences include obstructing traffic and obstructing a civil servant from carrying out his duties.

The Police Act 1967 for instance, gives this provision:
Duty on public roads Section 21 (1). It shall be the duty of police officers:
(a) to regulate, control and divert any traffic;
(b) to keep order on public roads, streets, thoroughfares and landing places, and at other places of public resort and places to which the public have access; and
(c) to prevent obstruction on the occasions of assemblies and processions on public roads and streets, and in any case, when any road, street, thoroughfare, landing place or ferry may be thronged or liable to be obstructed.

One does not condone breaking of the law but legalese aside, Khalid and especially those he takes orders from, need to delve further into the reasons of the Dec 15 incident that took place on the Kesas Highway.

But before I go any further, let me state that I believe fellow Malaysians would give way to emergency vehicles – as seen numerous times, even in grid lock traffic, where motorists would risk scraping their vehicles to make a pathway for ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles.

But VIPs in their flashy cars? The IGP has a point that it could pose a security risk. And in an age where security is the buzzword, as law-abiding citizens one should allow our leaders to pass.

Perhaps the prime minister and members of royalty but I don't think the likes of former domestic trade, cooperatives and consumerism minister Datuk Seri Hasan Malek who said motorists should give way as a sign of respect would qualify.

But the incident on Dec 15 is a larger case of civil disobedience.

It is an illustration of the populace's disillusionment with federal leaders who seem to be completely oblivious to the plight of the rakyat.

It is bad enough that toll fares have and are increasing, now we have to give way to those who allowed these hikes in the first place?

It also does not help when the words that come out of the mouths of our leaders seem to indicate a government which is detached from its people.

For example my friend, Urban Well-Being, Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who suggested that those who do not wish to pay toll should wake up earlier to avoid traffic jams on toll-free roads.

The Kota Belud MP is familiar with KL traffic, having driven himself minus outriders, in the rain during peak hour to attend a forum I organised some time back, so he should be aware of the difficulties faced by city dwellers. Hence he should offer better suggestions to improve urban well-being.

It is a no brainer, but the highly paid perception managers of those in power must also be able to tell the obvious to their clueless clients.

One must understand the people's psyche. Everyone's working, so what makes you any special? Especially when these people whom we have to give way to have the power to resolve the city's transport and traffic woes.

In some cases, they are the cause of the problem and the reason why Malaysians' spending power is diminishing as we pay more on the roads, whether it is by private or public transport.

Whether one takes to the streets like the annual yellow gathering or take a more subtle option like the highway users, our decision makers should brace themselves for more of such demonstrations of discontent.

And as we usher in a new year with fresh challenges, it would be wise for those who chose to lead to be familiar with the people's problems and offer up solutions, not add to the problem.

Perhaps in this aspect the chairman of the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar can take the lead and get everyone to take the damn train once in awhile.

Terence is a former editor at theSun. Brickbats: letters@thesundaily.com