Abdullah should direct the revival of Ops Sikap campaign and its extension to round-the-year to heighten public consciousness to make it an important pillar of the National Road Safety Plan to slash road carnage in Malaysia
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Despite the personal concern shown by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the national road safety campaign is going backward instead of forward with the sudden end of the police Ops Sikap campaign for the Christmas and New Year holidays to create greater public awareness of the high incidence of traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities during the national festive periods.
Last year for instance, after the 15-day Ops Sikap III between Nov. 29 and Dec. 13 for the Hari Raya holidays, which recorded 12,239 accidents with an average of 816 accidents daily and 285 fatalities, the police launched Ops Sikap III (Phase 2) for the Christmas and New Year holidays between Dec. 21 and January 6 this year, while Ops Sikap IV was launched between January 25 to Feb. 8 for the Chinese New Year holidays.
I had criticised the authorities for its short span of attention on the high traffic accident, fatalities and injuries rate focused only on the national holidays when the daily average of the road carnage is not very different from that recorded during the national holidays, as an average of 16.5 people died in road crashes in the country every day, with motor-cyclists, pillion-riders and pedestrians representing over 70 per cent of the casualties.
However, my criticism over the lack of a sustained campaign to combat the high traffic accident and fatalities rate in the country is not a criticism against the high-profile police campaigns like the Ops Sikap series during the national holidays, but a criticism for failing to make it a round-the-year campaign, so that public awareness and consciousness to reduce the high but preventable traffic accident, fatalities and injuries rates in the country become a daily national concern, preoccupation and even obsession, as reflected in media coverage and monitoring, and not just three times a year during the Hari Raya, Christmas/New Year and Chinese New Year holidays.
It is clearly a step backwards that instead of extending national road safety campaigns like Ops Sikap into a sustained year-long affairs, they are terminated even during the national festive periods, just because the recent Ops Sikap V for the Hari Raya holiday period was a failure as compared to Ops Sikap III in terms of traffic fatalities. As a result, the police have stopped giving, and the media stopped reporting, the daily number of traffic accidents and daily toll of traffic fatalities and injuries for the current Christmas/New Year holiday period – which is a disservice to the campaign to any National Road Safety Plan and campaign.
As he is now the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety, Abdullah should give his personal attention as to why the Police had terminated its Ops Sikap campaign for the current Christmas/New Year period. He should direct that the Ops Sikap campaign be immediately revived and extended into a year-round campaign to heighten public consciousness to make it an important pillar of the National Road Safety Plan to slash the road carnage in Malaysia
Abdullah should also ensure that the authorities do not resort to “quick fixes” which could give the impression that something is being done to tackle the high traffic accident, fatalities and injuries rates, although the proposed remedies may not produce the desired results and may even create new and serious socio-economic problems, such as the proposal to raise the age limit for applying for a driving licence from 17 to 20 and the giving to all policemen, even those in plainclothes, the power to issue traffic summons.
Transparency International Malaysia has blamed systemic corruption in the civil service, in particular the police and the road transport department, for the country’s alarming rate of traffic accidents but there are no signs that such systemic corruption are being tackled seriously.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman