Enforce parking rules sensibly

RECENTLY in Penang Island, a car was clamped by a local council officer after a woman parked her car in a bay designated for Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU). Her car did not display the appropriate sticker to use the disabled parking bay.

A city council enforcement officer clamped the vehicle without knowing that it belonged to a woman pushing her mother on a wheelchair to a bank at Macalister Road.

There was more than an hour-long spat and the incident was posted on social media and has gone viral. The woman reportedly explained to the enforcement officer that she was in the midst of applying for a car sticker for the disabled. The heated issue was settled only after a bank officer approached the MBPP officer to pay RM50 on behalf of the female driver.

The enforcement officer was put in a difficult position. On one hand, he should have shown compassion towards disabled people. But on the other hand, he had to follow the standard operating procedure (SOP).

According to a Penang state executive council member, Chow Kon Yeow: "A wrong is a wrong. We have laws that we need to comply with. I understand the woman may have felt hurt but we have guidelines in MBPP which we must follow." He said that the two parking inspectors had to explain to their superiors if they had cancelled a compound notice that had been already issued.

Arguably, from the humanitarian point of view, the best thing would have been for the enforcement officer, on seeing the woman coming back with her wheelchair-bound mother, to forgive her and issue a warning.

The second incident was about a woman in Kuala Lumpur who complained that her car was clamped for illegal parking by Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) while a Mercedes Benz parked in front of her was not clamped. If this was really the case, it was truly unfair for DBKL to do that.

There has to be strict and fair enforcement of rules, irrespective of the status of the law breakers. Otherwise Malaysian drivers will continue to cause inconvenience and difficulties to other road users. They also set a bad example for the younger generation.

There will always be insufficient parking space in city centres, especially around markets, schools and religious buildings, as long as peoples' love affair with the convenience and status symbol value of cars continues.

Many people not only use their cars to go everywhere, even short distances, but also park anywhere they like. There are instances of drivers with expensive cars, including those with "Yang Berhormat" and "Datuk" badges parking irresponsibly and indiscriminately.

They should know better. It is a wonder that the economic and educational systems that have enabled these people to accumulate wealth to be able to afford expensive cars somehow have failed miserably to inculcate the civic-mindedness and respect for the law that should come with car ownership.

There are Asian societies that have succeeded in keeping to a minimum those lacking in civic values. For instance, the Japanese are brought up to behave in public because it is the right thing to do. In Singapore, people behave because they know the government will not spare the rod if they demonstrate anti-social tendencies in public areas.

The incidence of non-compliance with parking rules and road signs has become so rampant that building owners have resorted to putting physical barriers, such as chairs and cones, to prevent parking at entrances and critical junctions.

The enforcement officers must put a stop to irresponsible drivers parking at or near bus stops and those who block half the road to order and wait for their food and drink at hawker stalls.

Illegal parking obstructs the smooth flow of traffic. It creates nuisance for and threatens the safety of other road users including cyclists and pedestrians. To stop illegal parking, we must have reasonable rules and compliance checks. This includes compassion for disabled citizens and those less fortunate. City councils must make sure that the process for obtaining disabled stickers is streamlined.

They must also pay better attention to traffic and parking planning, and devote more resources to upgrade other modes of transport including public buses and trains.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee is interested in urban governance, housing and urban planning. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com