You, Our Unelected Mayor. We, the Uncivic-conscious Citizens.

Here in Malaysia, you’d be a minority if you cared about cleanliness. Because even the city council doesn’t seem to care. Ipoh used to be the cleanest city in the country. Unfortunately, we didn’t drop just a rung below the top Kuching. Over the years, we fell down the ladder to be precise.

Early this year, a load of coconut husks were dumped outside the Ipoh Mayor, Roshidi Hashim’s house. The enforcement officers swooped down immediately to clear up the mess. Undoubtedly angry, he said that there would be “no compromise when it comes to illegal rubbish dumping” and those responsible were “traitors to our [city council’s] cause to keep the city clean”.

I wish I could laud what Mr. Roshidi said. Regretfully, I can’t. While swift action was taken to clean up the dump in front of the Mayor’s house, no similar action has been taken in so many areas around Ipoh. I don’t see sweepers cleaning anywhere else except outside the Menteri Besar’s residence. No other road in Ipoh is as well landscaped as that. Shrubs are replanted every few months. Tour the suburbs and you won’t see council-planted trees. But I guarantee plenty of poorly maintained parks and trash-filled drains around shop houses. Talk about traitors. (Though personally, ‘traitor’ seems to be an over-the-top word to use.)

All these despite it being Visit Perak Year 2012. It’s like having an open house although the house is a mess. Yes, welcome, tourists to Perak! See our efficient city councils, our civic-minded citizens and our hills of trash besides our rolling limestone hills.

Mr. Roshidi has been Mayor since 2008, but no difference has been made except the installation of many unsightly billboards and useless so-called aesthetic structures. The public bus services are still using the omnibuses my mother used as a student. Then there is privatisation. Increase your efficiency, MBI, then privatisation is not necessary!

I believe, in the practice of democracy, that mayors be elected, not appointed by state governments. A mayor’s task is to champion our cities, not be political pawns to the reigning party. Although elections may be farcical to some who have been disillusioned by so-called democracy, it is a means of implementing a manifesto that receives the approval of the people. And if the Mayor doesn’t champion the city, we can always give him the boot.

It isn’t all about the city council at times. That democracy that we love isn’t just about elections but about the people doing their part with the freedom they have. I participated in an on-site public protest against the construction of a columbarium just 200 metres from a housing estate. The protest went ignored so another was held outside the council building. We won.

But, it isn’t all about protesting. There is civic-consciousness as well. If you don’t stop dumping/littering, the mess won’t end. How do people be civic-conscious? Education. But I’m not talking about our Moral Studies and Civic Education in our schools at present, because as you can see, it has failed us. Learn from Hong Kong. The level of civic-consciousness is so high, I have complete respect for them. When I mean education, it is not education in the sense of formal means or qualifications. At the end of the day, the highest education is useless if the mind is not educated and the actions don’t speak education. You, litterbug with the PhD, are less educated than the petty trader who keeps his premises clean.

These are several water-based oil paintings I did for a proposed clean-up campaign in KL. (It was a new experience painting with oils, but I was sad to realise they are bad for the environment!) It didn’t turn out, but I hope it speaks a message here.

This one was just bad. Too messy.

My favourite piece. 🙂

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~ by Yi Wen Lim on September 1, 2012.

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