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Don't wait till another bus tragedy happens

With 37 people found dead in the recent Genting coach accident, it is time for the country to wake up.

It cannot be denied that Genting Highlands has always been a beautiful local tourist destination and it will continue to be, despite the tragic accident. As a matter of fact, my family and I will be making a trip there this weekend for our short holiday to cool ourselves and we are not changing our mind to go elsewhere just because of one tragic accident.

However, it is high time that the federal and state governments, the Finance Ministry, the Works Ministry and other government agencies should put emphasis on widening and building better roads and public amenities to cater to the number of tourists, both local and foreign.

These are places very important to rejuvenate the economy of the local communities. For example, every year, thousands of people flock to tourist destinations like the Cameron Highlands and Frasers Hill; if not for that, survival would be tough for the local people.

For the past three years, I have been highlighting one particular story, specifically to do with the Sungai Palas Boh Tea Plantation. It was after one visit to the plantation that I saw the danger lurking below the edges of the narrow winding road into the tea plantation. (Story 1, story 2, story 3)

The plantation is by no means a beautiful eco-tourism spot for Malaysians to visit and to bring foreign tourists who enjoy both the cooler ambience and the beauty of Mother Nature. Within a span of three years, I had written to several government officials, ministers and the local Member of Parliament to tell them of the near mishap that my family and I had when our front tyre was barely 30cm from the edge of the road.

What is most appalling to me is that the Public Works Department office in Tapah had in fact asked for funding to widen the road since the Seventh Malaysia Plan. The budget is about RM6 million, and is sufficient for the expansion of the 2.2km stretch in Jalan Sungai Palas, but there was no budget for the expansion work. By comparison to the millions of ringgit pumped into other dubious projects, RM6 million is really a drop of water in the ocean.

Last year, Boh Tea Plantations spent nearly RM1 million to expand their section of the road, but a large section of the road is on state land. The road is supposed to serve both the locals as well as the tourists visiting the Sungai Palas tea centre; therefore, it is not fair for the entire burden to be placed on Boh.

After the Streets section highlighted the issue, things are slowly working out. The latest is, I have learnt, that the project will be part of the Fourth Rolling Plan of the Tenth Malaysia Plan, which will only begin in early 2015. Between now and 2015, I can only dread to wait for another major accident to take place.