(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport, Datuk Chor Chee Heung said yesterday that the Transport Ministry has "run out of ideas" on how to reduce road accidents and deaths.
He said: "We have applied all the ideas, tried out all methods employed in other countries, spent millions of ringgit on campaigns and education but to no avail … the accidents continue to rise."
A total of 20 people were killed on the first day of Hari Raya, the highest death toll since the launch of the nationwide operation to reduce road accidents during the festive period.
This brings to 117 the number of people killed during the first eight days of Ops Statik II.
So far, 73 motorcyclists and pillion riders have been killed since the beginning of Ops Statik II, representing 62.39 per cent of the total death toll.
During Ops Statik last year, the toll was 307 deaths and 2,200 injured. When taking into consideration the Chinese New Year holidays next month, the number of road accidents and deaths during this year’s festive holidays might surpass last year’s figures.
What is tragic is that the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik had already conceded defeat in the battle against increasing road accidents and deaths in the country a year ago.
This is what Liong Sik said in the Sun of 4th February 1998:
"We have done what others have been doing around the world. In spite of numerous road safety campaigns the number of accident cases have been increasing.
"What else can we do, if people want to die?"
The number of roads accidents and deaths in the country should be regarded as a national disaster, but with such defeatism, pessimism and utter lack of imagination on the part of the Minister for Transport, the battle to reduce road accidents and deaths is already half lost.
I am even more shocked that on 25th February 1996, the Transport Minister could say that although the 162 road deaths during the Chinese New Year and Hari Raya holidays was a tragedy, the figure was negligible when comparing the 3,921 accidents to the three million vehicles that were on the highways from February 18 to February 24, 1996.
When a Transport Minister could refer to 162 road deaths as "negligible", completely indifferent to the human cost and sufferings of even a single death, it is clear that something is very wrong in the very top leadership of the Transport Ministry.
Chor Chee Heung said that the government had applied all the ideas and tried out all methods but they were no avail to reduce the road accidents and deaths in the country. There is one idea that has not been tried, and it is time for a new Transport Minister with new ideas and fresh thinking especially when the present 13-year incumbent has come to the end of his wits as to how to reduce road accidents and deaths.
In fact, the country and the people can only benefit if there is a major reshuffle of the Cabinet by removing the deadwood and bringing him new talents more attuned to the needs and challenges of the new millennium.