Cabinet Committee on Road Safety should be revived and revamped to be a high-profile body with the mission to slash by half the annual 6,000 road fatalities within 12 months
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The new Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is to be commended for giving his personal attention a week before Hari Raya on 18th November 2003 to the road safety campaign to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities during the Hari Raya holidays.
It was because of the personal attention given by Abdullah that there was a change of Ministerial attitudes to the annual road carnage during national holidays, with three Cabinet Ministers showing their highly-publicized concern and interest, with one taking to the skies for two hours in a helicopter to inspect the Hari Raya traffic movement along the North-South Expressway.
It is debatable what these cosmetic concerns and last-minute “PR” actions of the Ministers can achieve to minimize the number of accidents and fatalities during the current Hari Raya holidays, but it is clearly an improvement from the previous deplorable state of affairs in the past few years when no single Cabinet Minister was even bothered or felt responsible for the high accident rate and road carnage during national holidays – highlighted by the credo of one key Minister who should be very concerned: ”What else can we do, if people want to die?” (Sun 4.2.1998)
At the first Cabinet meeting in December 1999 after the last general election, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had directed Cabinet Ministers to carry out their duties with collective responsibility, loyalty, efficiency and dedication. The Ministers were specifically directed to be “hands-on” in their work.
Unfortunately, to many Cabinet Ministers, the Prime Minister’s directive was “right-ear in, left-ear out”, as they were not only “hands-off” but even “minds-off” in the discharge of their duties – and the high traffic accident rate and high carnage on the roads, claiming some 6,000 lives and wreaking some RM6 billion costs a year, is a classic example.
At least we are now moving from the former “nobody is responsible” to the present “everyone is responsible” attitude of Cabinet Ministers – although there is no surety that this would of itself lead to any material improvement in reducing the high incidence of road accidents and fatalities..
The “PR” interests of a few Ministers cannot be a substitute for an effective, comprehensive and well-thought-out road-safety campaign as borne out by the statistics of the fatalities in the traffic accidents in the first six days of the Hari Raya – a total of 104 deaths which is comparable to the gruesome toll of the past year where 107 persons were killed in the first six days of last year’s Hari Raya holidays.
As Ops Sikap V is heading towards a failure – with fatalities likely to match or even exceed last year’ Hari Raya holidays toll of 285, the highest in the nation’s history – there is an urgent need for a more professional and serious approach to address this problem going beyond cosmestic concerns and PR exercises of Cabinet Ministers.
The Cabinet at its meeting next week should revive and revamp the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety to become a high-profile body with a special mission – to formulate and implement a strategy to slash road fatalities and accident rate by 50 per cent within 12 months.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman