SPAD: Don’t politicize public transport. TRANSIT: Too late, the train has left the station.

TRANSIT took note of an interesting set of comments from SPAD Chair Syed Hamid Albar, in which he warned public transport operators not to politicize issues with public transport. But as you can see from our analysis, his comments may come too late.

Two recent events and a few others have demonstrated to us that a political connection to public transport issues is already alive and well in Malaysia.

Most recently we have observed the KL & Selangor Taxi Drivers’ Welfare Association rally in PJ this past weekend, in which they made public their 10 resolutions to the government. The rally was attended by members of the Pakatan Rakyat … one of whom noted the importance of taxi drivers in political campaigning.

Also on the taxi front, a massive protest was held last weekend at the Larkin terminal by taxi drivers unhappy with the new coupon system … and apparently a SPAD official was punched several times.

NOTE: It is important that TRANSIT says right now that We do not condone or accept violence of any kind, and we believe that the police should immediately investigate the police report filed by the SPAD official … the message needs to get out that discussion & open dialogue is the way forward, not violence.

Last week of course the KTM Railwaymen’s Union sent a letter of protest to Prime Minister Najib Razak over the reappointment of KTMB President Dr. Aminuddin Adnan, and warned the PM that RUM members could be encouraged to vote strategically in any upcoming election.

There is a flipside, of course. One can hardly separate Prime Minister Najib’s Economic Transformation Programme projects and Government Transformation Programme “National Key Result Areas” (both of which involve public transport improvements) from politics since they are a demonstration of government policy (even if that policy and the action plans are somewhat unclear) as well as party politics.

Our main point is this: protests like the ones described above, combined with Syed Hamid’s protestations below, are leaving us to wonder how clear the government’s ETP/GTP/NKRA proposals for improving public transport really is to the other stakeholders in the industry … and whether or not they are on side with the proposals.

SPAD chairman: Don’t politicise public transport issues (The Star)

1 August 2011

KUALA LUMPUR: Public transport issues should not be politicised by any quarters, said Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar.

He said public transport issues touched on public interests and it was the Government’s responsibility to provide a public transport service that was more efficient and met the people’s needs.

[TRANSIT: Then explain the ‘entrepreneurial’ model that CVLB has been using, as well as the lack of local organization & management of public transport. Also explain for us the lack of investment in basic public transport services that reach most communities.]

“If the Government is not interested (in public transport), why the need to set up a commission like this when there are already other authorities, like a ministry and the relevant agencies.

[TRANSIT: Er … perhaps because those ‘authorities’ were admittedly dysfunctional and everyone recognized that?]

“So, I do not want issues on public transport to be looked at politically. This is for the good of the people,” he told reporters at his office here Monday.

[TRANSIT: Again, as we said above, it’s too late for that. Politics has stepped in.]

He said this when asked on the meeting between the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Taxi Drivers Associations and Opposition government leaders last week.

Syed Hamid said efforts were being made by the commission to contact the associations concerned so that a meeting could be held to discuss their problems.

[TRANSIT: The fact that the Association chose to make their announcement & resolutions public (with the attention of Wakil Rakyat from Pakatan Rakyat, the “opposition” suggests that the Association lacks faith in SPAD. If that is the case, what will SPAD do to restore that faith?]

The commission, he said, was also in the process of gathering information on problems and issues pertaining to taxi services before a new policy would be drafted for tabling to the Government in September.

[TRANSIT: It appears that many public-transport related improvements/proposals/plans (first of the new Komuter trains, the KL Masterplan, Bus-Rapid Transit Plan, Taxi plan, and possibly the 2nd MRT line routing) will be shown to the public in September … it’s almost as if they want the public to have a little bit of time to digest these changes as they digest their “bulan raya” meals. But we have to wonder, is there a need for all this to happen in September? Unless something big is planned for say, October?]

He said among the problems often raised by taxi, as well as car rental and limousine operators, were on their areas of operation, high insurance, fare, the presence of pirate taxis and the coupon system. – Bernama

TRANSIT Says:

When politicians tell other people that they should not be political, we at TRANSIT smirk a little bit.

But then we wonder, and we worry. We wonder why in this case Syed Hamid Albar is saying that public transport not be ‘politicized’ but at the same time agreeing that public transport is in the public interest. After all, something that is in the public interest is therefore a matter of public policy and that policy should be discussed by the public and their representatives.

In other words there is no way that public transport cannot be political. However, “political” does not necessarily mean “partisan” … they are not the same thing.

The reason why we at TRANSIT worry is because we know that many Malaysians may assume that “political = partisan” and anyone who gives feedback or suggestions to the government is being “political” and therefore “partisan” and therefore “against” the government.

Even TRANSIT is not immune to these views. We know that many people view us through the lens of “political = partisan” and think that we are “against” the government. But TRANSIT is not partisan and we are not “for or against” anyone … our focus is on policy and improvements to public transport that are in the public interest.

We worry because so far, very few wakil rakyat have managed to step up and dedicate real attention to public transport. We worry because too many Malaysians (including wakil rakyat) see this as “political = partisan” instead of as a call for better public transport policy. And we worry because we do not know if we will get the support of the rakyat and the wakil rakyat and the public servants in our campaign to improve public transport.

We know the economic & social benefits of investment in real public transport from the ground up. We know the social and political (policy) benefits of a clear government policy on public transport. Unfortunately, those clear benefits are being clouded by the thinking that “political = partisan” … and with the rumours of an election in late 2011, we can only see things getting worse.

For this reason, we at TRANSIT ask you, the public, to stop thinking that “political = partisan” and start thinking that “political = building a better Malaysia” … a Malaysia built by her people out of love & duty and nothing else.

And for this reason we ask SPAD to make it clear that they are in the process of developing clear policy with a strong plan for action and enforcement … with real consultation of the public and other stakeholders included.

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