On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

What a waste of good money

Along Jalan Universiti, there used to be a miniature
waterfall near the roundabout but it longer works.

Such white elephants, erected in the name of beautification, are symbols of
mismanagement and incompetence.

Malaysians have a right to demand that our taxes are properly spent. We
certainly do not want our councils to throw away good money, particularly when
most of us have the impression that they are not performing to our standards.

We may still be a developing country, as Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad
reminded us on our expectations, but we want certain standards of public
facilities such as pedestrian walks, efficient and clean public transport,
pristine parks, pleasant housing and vibrant urban centres.

In short, all we ask for is that our councils focus their attention on
maintaining a clean environment, safe streets, adequate and affordable shelter
and pleasant neighbourhoods.

Of late, our council leaders have come under fire – and rightly so – for not
doing what they are being paid to do.

Last week, the Klang Municipal Council drew flak when newspapers highlighted
its decision to buy its 24 councillors uniforms costing a total of RM95,000 and
a mace worth RM105,000.

The councillors were supposed to wear the attire, in the form of baju Melayu
and songkok, but 10 among them protested, saying it was a waste of taxpayers'

I hope the 10 councillors – seven from the MCA, two from MIC and one from
Gerakan – objected because they genuinely believed that the expenditure was

There's nothing wrong with the design of the uniform; the crux of the
controversy is its necessity. The point here should not be whether non-Muslims
want to wear baju Melayu and songkok but whether the council should be paying
for these clothes. The contention is whether it is justified for the council to
spend over RM3,500 on clothes for each councillor.

State Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Mokhtar Ahmad Dahlan should not
bring in a sensitive dimension to the controversy by saying it does not make
any non-Muslim a Malay by wearing baju Melayu and songkok.

He is right in saying so but the issue is simply about accountability – not
race or custom.

I do not see how the councillors can become more efficient by wearing these
expensive uniforms. Klang may be a royal town, but what is the point of adding
pomp to the council meetings by having a ceremonial mace?

The council should channel its energies into more productive activities.

The Sultan of Selangor, I believe, would rather see the council carrying out
its responsibilities efficiently by keeping Klang clean.

Klang does not have the reputation of being an attractive and pleasant town. It
continues to be haphazardly planned, and maintenance problems top the grouses
of residents.

Keeping the town clean is still a major issue and the poor services rendered by
contractors have not helped to improve the image of the council.