Buck stops at City Hall

MUCH is said about Malaysia's litter strewn urban public spaces. Yet there is no improvement despite aspiring to developed nation status in just two years.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee's column, Local Counsel, in theSun on Jan 2 was a reminder.

Mayors and ministers say, "the people must change." Reporters and columnists seem to agree. But nothing happens.

Could they be barking up the wrong tree?

Maybe "the people" are not to blame. Maybe it is a diversionary tactic to cover up bureaucratic incompetence. Let me explain.

The Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act makes local authorities responsible for managing solid waste. The operative word here is "responsible".

Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) is a local authority.

Why then does DBKL refuse to take responsibility for the litter and illegal dumping in the city?

Why does DBKL tell complainants to take their complaints abut littering and illegal dumping to the Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government?

And, what happens when the public submit their complaints online to the ministry? Why, the complaints are auto-redirected to the website of their private contractor, Alam Flora!

Where is the responsibility assigned by law? Just who is responsible? Can residents who pay assessment to City Hall for waste disposal services hold a private contractor responsible? All this would be funny if it were not so sad.

There is more.

Observe the process of illegal dumping near low-cost flats. The "culprits" are invariably residents of the flats, mostly foreign workers. It is highly unlikely that foreign workers would dare do something that risks heavy fines. To all appearances, they are never fined.

On the contrary, the residents can be seen dutifully dumping their household waste at "assigned" illegal roadside sites. The Alam Flora subcontractor is happy to collect the waste from this site.

This is despite the flats having facilities within their premises for the storage of waste and access for lorries to enter and collect the waste.

DBKL is not even able to enforce the law against illegal dumping for reasons not explained.

So, an alternative theory emerges to explain the filthy state of urban public spaces.

It is not the people.

Rather, DBKL and the ministry shirk their responsibilities for keeping the city's walkways clean and instead engage in passing the buck.

In addition, they and their waste collection contractor actively contribute to the littering of Kuala Lumpur's streets with illegal dumps.

Just a Theory
Kuala Lumpur