By Jamaliah Yusof
Bolehland drivers being leeched by AES
In countries where the government is transparent and corruption is low, the Automated Enforcement System (AES) - the unmanned cameras that catch speed demons and red light offenders - would not be much of an issue like here in Malaysia. It would rather be seen as a tool to save lives and make roads safe.
But in Bolehland, where the opportunists rule, noble ideas can always be turned into money-making ventures. The public would be further skinned of their low income to pay capitalists who would laugh all their way to the bank. While I agree that AES is meant to save lives, to discipline drivers and to reduce casualties, there are many flaws that need to be addressed.
Firstly, I wonder why does this revenue-generating venture have to be privatised? Why must it involved capitalists especially when the revenues collected should be given back to the public rather than enriching certain the cronies? The revenue collected should be used to improve the state of our roads, road safety education, campaigns and others that would benefit everyone rather than certain individuals.
I am talking hundreds of million ringgits in fine collection here, or even billions. At least, make sure that the revenues are used to resurface roads, to replace streetlights, or to repaint faded lines.
If the government did not have money to kick off the project, why not start it small? Probably the government can start with a dozen cameras and then multiply the number once revenues begin to flow in. Why must it start with 830-odd cameras if the government knew for sure it could not afford it?
Why didn’t someone from the government think about the business model before going deep into this and handing it out to the private companies? After all, I bet these two companies also have to apply for bank loans, too. Why can’t the government itself apply for the loan instead? Haven’t profits been projected?
These days, ‘privatisation’ is a dirty word that spells disaster, especially when the public interest in concerned. This privatisation project certainly isn’t helping Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak at all, especially when elections are just around the corner. If the Barisan Nasional lost in the next election, the government officers who involved in this project should be held responsible. Or, is it what they actually want - to oust Najib in a subtle manner?
Many government agencies are involved in this bound-to-fail project. The Transport Ministry, the Road Transport Department (RTD), the Royal Malaysian Police (PDRM), the Road Safety Department (RSD), the Road Safety Research Institute (Miros), the Public Works Department (PWD), the Highway Authority Department (LLM) and many others.
Yet, the discrepancies are too obvious. Why didn’t anyone the government foresee the issues? Isn’t Miros a think tank for the Transport Ministry? Or, are PDRM and RTD too naive in enforcing rules?
The government appears to be reluctant in educating the public on the system. The public are not educated on the modus operandi of the system; for example, every camera will be preceded with warning signs to ensure that road users do not fall into the ‘speed trap’ because the cameras are meant to slow the drivers at accident prone areas.
Perhaps that explains why in some places AES warning signs are missing. Even when there is a warning sign, it does not come with the speed limit sign. Why couldn’t the contractors put the speed limit together with the warning sign?
The public are also not educated on their rights in case of receiving summonses as a result of the vehicles being driven by another party, or their plate numbers were used by someone else. What is the process, how long is the process and how to get it settled? These elements are missing.
Worst, I have not seen any advertisement shown on television, radio or newspapers. Maybe I missed them, but I don’t think that everyone else missed them, too. Perhaps, the government (and its crony contractors) wanted to play dirty with us roads users; purposely keep the public in the dark about the locations and the actual speed to collect bigger revenue.
10pct of budget for campaigns and education
If road safety is the ultimate agenda of this RM700 million project, I believe that contractors or the government has to spend about 10 percent of its budget for campaigns and education. That translates to RM70 million and with such a big amount of money, lots of positive messages could be delivered to change drivers’ behaviour.
Now that the government skips the campaign and education part, don’t blame the opposition leaders who capitalise on the issue for their political mileage. Don’t tell me Mahfuz Omar and other opposition leaders do not understanding some basic physics on the danger of speeding? Pakatan voters could probably die of speeding, too.
On the quantum of fine, I disagree that those who exceed the speed limit by less than 10kph to pay the same amount with those 20kph or faster. Perhaps the government should look into this as to ensure the fairness in ‘punishing’ offenders. What makes the government think that people who can afford million dollar cars like Bugatti or Ferrari would mind paying a RM300 fine for breaking the law?
On the other hand, school teachers or retired clerks who accidentally drive their Proton Saga at one or two kilometres per hour exceeding the allowable speed limit would probably cry when forced to pay a penalty.
Mahfuz may be right when he says that this project is only meant to enrich certain quarters. Only if the project’s agreement is made public, its implementation is not to ‘trap’ drivers, enough education and campaign for public, set up tiers in the amount of fine imposed, I believe this project can be accepted by all. Perhaps Miros and RTD failed to advise the government on this, and I also wonder whether public were asked on their opinion prior to AES implementation.
Take note that AES is not the sole measure for safer roads. Some cheap and easy measures such as ensuring street lights are working, improving road surfaces and installing clear road signs could simply reduce accidents.
Improving public transport, making safe cars affordable to the rakyat, making our roads pedestrian friendly, and producing effective campaigns would help too. But those don’t happen. Maybe PWD, LLM, local governments, Miros or even Tenaga Nasional should be punished for not doing their jobs.
If all these agencies do their work, the public wouldn’t be angry because our roads will be safer. Then, there won’t be any room for any crony to leech on the public in the name of road safety. The rakyat are smarter now in this digital age. Soon, don’t blame the rakyat if election results are not in Barisan Nasional’s favour.
By the way, where do RTD spent the taxes collected from 20 million vehicles in this country? The collection probably amounts to several billion ringgit a year. The Malaysian drivers are already burdened with high prices for fuel, high taxes to purchase cars and expensive tolls on congested highways, and now they’ll be robbed by private companies which hide behind the government’s project.
If the government and the two companies are sincere, why not impose AES on lower speed limits, too? Slow driving is equally dangerous, but certainly no profit can be made out of it. I would agree to AES if all other measures to make road safe have been implemented. But other safety aspects of our roads are clearly neglected.
Obviously, too many parties in the government service are sleeping on their jobs. Worse, they may be sleeping and counting easy money at the same time; perhaps in their comfortable first class flights overseas ‘to learn’ about AES. These officers who leech on taxpayers’ money are the ones who should be punished for their blatant failure to make our roads safe - not the AES victims.