Fix a pothole and have your own star
Mon, Jun 07, 2010
The Star/Asia News Network


MALAYSIA - How many times have we heard our friends complain about road bullies or the lack of driving etiquette among fellow Malaysians? To me, it almost sounds like a broken record.

Our latest gripes are about the high incidence of potholes in Kuala Lumpur. Potholes are not only dangerous for vehicles but also for people who choose to walk and run on the road.

Let's say I have had twisted ankles because I was not aware of the large number of potholes on a particular road while I was jogging.

Popular theory has it that there is poor coordination among various departments or agencies.

After workers of one department resurface the road, the workers of a utility will dig up the road again, creating the potholes. So next time you contact the friendly telephone man to fix the house land line, you might create a pothole. Thank God, we love our handphones.

According to news reports, Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Jalan Raja Chulan, Jalan Kepong and Jalan U Thant are the major roads which are pothole-infested.

The question which we asked ourselves was how do we fix the problem? I am sure we have bosses who always say, 'Come back with a solution, not a problem.' But what is the solution? A 64-million-ringgit question really! The usual advice would be writing letters to the local council or government, highlighting the matter through the media, or using a connection to try to fix the holes on the roads. Well, if that is the method, why are there still potholes on the roads?

A few years back, an odd-job worker by the name of Panjang had taken it upon himself to cover potholes on the streets of Johor Baru wherever he found them as they were posing a danger. Panjang was branded a caped crusader as he risked his life several times covering holes in the middle of the road without proper warning signs.

People like Panjang are the true altruists and idealists, but I think the Panjangs of this world were just frustrated at that time. Not everyone shares Panjang's spirit, so since we Malaysians like to be recognised, why not create a pop culture where society can benefit.

So how do we fix the problem? I think we should go German.

Yes, even the structured and organised Germans have pothole problems. Due to the 'harshest winter' in decades, the bad weather has left many European roads covered with potholes and 40 per cent of German roads have been damaged. To make matters worse, due to the recession, the councils do not have enough funds to repair the problem.

But one German town has come up with a unique solution - seek sponsors to fix the potholes and in return, the sponsors can put their names on it in a plaque.

The idea was created in the cash-strapped eastern German village of Niederzimmern, near Leipzig. People there can buy a hole for, 50. In return, the authorities will repair it - and put a personal message on top. Now that's one way to put your name on the map and give back to society. The response has been quite positive and there have been some interested sponsors.

If a tiny village in Germany can do it, why can't we? Our economy is relatively stable and I am sure there are members of the KL elite who would love to give back to the public. There are also people in town who want to stamp their mark on society.

According to my sources, repairing a pothole can cost as little as RM250. So let's call this idea the 'Pot Stars' project and kill a few birds with one stone. Why 'Pot Stars' you may ask? Well, quite simple; if you fix a pothole, you can become famous!

I am sure all you comedians are going to have a good roast with this. I can imagine the questions that would be asked, like 'Are we trying to create our own Rodeo Drive or Road of Fame? Are you trying to give fuel to the Malaysian reality pop star culture? What shall we call it then? Reality Pot Stars? One in a Million Potholes? Academy Lubang Di Jalan Raya?' Well my answer is that this is not music, and I am not trying to recreate American Idol.

If the Pot Stars project were to be implemented, I can just imagine the plaques of Jalan U Thant reading 'US Embass', 'Australian Embassy', and 'Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah', while the Putrajaya potholes will read 'Finance Ministry' and 'Health Ministry', and the Jalan Sultan Ismail and Bukit Tunku potholes will read 'Courtesy of the Malaysian Parliament'

In a time of global economic downturn, we are trying to save a few ringgit. Potholes not only damage our cars, but can also cause injury, especially if you are a clumsy runner like me. We don't like giving unnecessary money to the physiotherapist or workshop, let's go the German way

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