Published: Tuesday January 14, 2014 MYT 3:48:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday January 14, 2014 MYT 4:43:24 PM
This writer hopes 2014 would be the year that sees improvements being made on the public transportation system.
ON Sunday, Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud officiated at the Darul Hana urban redevelopment covering an extensive area near the majestic Sarawak Legislative Assembly Complex.
Seeing photos the scale model and layout of the masterplan, it’s indeed a very extensive mega project.
Moreover, it would be complemented by the upcoming S-shaped Golden Anniversary Bridge linking the Kuching’s heritage Malay settlement and the city’s bustling commercial district via Sarawak River.
As such, it’s not surprising that there have been talks and proposals to develop tourism to go hand in hand with the running of the Darul Hana project.
While all is good and proper, as a Kuchingite myself, I believe my beloved city is still lacking in one key infrastructure — public transportation.
I have written about this before and many quarters — from individuals among the masses to politicians, from activists to media practitioners — have been terkiak-kiakover the issue as well.
There you go, my Sarawak Malay word for the week, which simply means “yelling” — either literally or figuratively.
And why shouldn’t we terkiak-kiak about the sorry state of our public transportation system, especially on the advent of the collaborative Visit Malaysia-Sarawak Year 2014 campaign?
Last year, I wrote about the status of our public transportation system that really hadn’t gone much beyond taxis, some of which were still without meters. It’s also likely that the drivers would not use them even if they’re installed.
Today, the scenario remains pretty much the same.
Of course, I would not want to be all critical without coming up a little research find. So I clicked the state government website www.sarawak.gov.my and did some reading.
Its media centre, I would say, was quite OK in terms of being recent (after all, it is a government-handled website), with the last update being uploaded on Dec 20 last year.
As I looked further, there was a speech presented by Taib during the during the launch of the Golden Anniversary Bridge last August. An excerpt reads verbatim: “As we celebrate Sarawak’s 50 years as a state in Malaysia, we want to show that the progress that has been achieved reflects the true desire of the people (to) not only have more public utilities, amenities but to migrate to a new era that depicts continuous efforts for development and progress and retention of the beauty of our relics.”
Of course in this context, the Chief Minister was referring to the preservation of the state identity (Sarawak River) by having sustainable development (bridge) across it, which should also benefit the people once it is completed.
No argument on that.
Still when it comes to public transportation, Kuching seems to go backwards.
I was a frequent bus hopper during my school days and when I was working my first job, having no car to travel around in. Back in the 80s and 90s, buses were so easy to catch. Depending on destinations around and on the city’s outskirts, you had the option of getting buses either at stations near Padang Pasir, at Saujana building, within Brooke Dockyard commercial lots (now no longer exists) or across the street from Electra House, opposite the open air food court.
Nowadays I can count the number of public buses on the road with my fingers, especially the ones bound for Kuching North, despite having many bus stops along the routes.
Don’t even get me started on travelling between the city centre and Kuching International Airport. Apart from private cars and taxis, nothing else is really there.
I, for one, really hate to compare but if we could only look at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, or even Johor’s Senai Airport — both have viable options for travellers, be they locals or foreigners.
I am talking about Kuching because apart from being its citizen, the city is also the state capital. Eventually whatever progress that Kuching is undergoing, it will spread and be established in other cities and towns across Sarawak as well.
With the Visit Sarawak 2014 going full steam ahead, we as the hosts should welcome all visitors, even the backpackers, with our renown warmth and hospitality.
I don’t quite agree with certain opinions saying that we should prioritise tourists who have more spending power that could significantly contribute to state tourism. I mean, what’s wrong with being a preferred destination for backpackers and adventure travellers? Although they may not generate as much tourism dollar as the premium tourists, the exposure and indirect promotion that they bring with them could draw more visitors to Sarawak.
Therefore, having well-run public transportation system goes a long way in this respect.
More importantly, it will help the locals.
With price hikes in fuel and other items, as well as subsidy cuts and the implementation of GST next year, we need to scrimp and save through whatever means possible, which includes reverting to public transport.
On this, I hope 2014 would be the year that sees improvements being made on this particular area.
I realise, however, with many issues hurting the people at the start of what’s expected to be a good year, they may be apprehensive of what the government is really doing for them.
This is the reality. The people want to see that their votes during last year’s May 5 General Election working up to their expectation and whatever promises made then being fulfilled.
As such with the recent happenings and ongoing circumstances, one could not easily blame the people for having less faith in the government.
Nevertheless, I do have my hopes for the government. It’s just that there are times we should go terkiak-kiak to let the powers-that-be know that we, the people, really matter.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.