Citizens’ Low Expectations of Their Government

by M. Bakri Musa

It is a sad reflection of the citizens’ low expectations of their government and public institutions that the recent collapse of the Perak State Park Corporation’s building in Tasik Banding, Gerik, no longer provokes an outrage. The general reaction seems to be, “What’s new?” At this rate, soon only the buildings that stand would make the headlines!

Yes, Works Minister Samy Vellu feigned shock and anger, while Mentri Besar Tajol Roslin promised a “full investigation” of this latest disaster. We have heard those promises and reassurances too often before. Yet these new buildings keep collapsing or leaking, and half-baked projects like the crooked bridge to replace the causeway have to be scrapped.

From yet another perspective, or to “spin” it differently, it was indeed a blessing that such government facilities as the new Kuching Prison were not completed. With such shoddy constructions, it would have been a massive and tragic human trap, not a prison.

Only a few years ago there was a serious breach of security at the nearby Grik Army Base. The heist was perpetrated not by a gang of superbly trained infiltrators rather a rag tag bunch of sarong-clad village bums. Then too there was the promise by Defense Minister Najib Razak of a White Paper to get to “the bottom of the issue.” There was only one problem: It was only a promise.

About the only redeeming feature is that thus far these collapsed buildings involved no casualties. One view is that these structures are so poorly built that they collapse literally after the last nail was hammered and before they could be occupied. I wished these buildings would last just a wee bit longer, at least until the official opening ceremony when they could take down with them some important personalities, like the Prime Minister. It would that kind of tragedy to knock some sense into those in charge.

When such disasters happen, whether it is a flyway collapsing or a building tumbling down, I yearn for someone in authority to take full charge and do something sensible like what I suggest below.

He should order all those responsible, including the officers involved in awarding the tender, the building inspectors who certified the various stages of the construction, the contractors and main sub-contractors, architects, and engineers to come to his office to hear their side of the story and to ask them some tough questions.

At the end of that private meeting and preferably at an open press conference, he should declare that an independent investigation would be initiated, and pending the outcome of that inquiry he would:

  • Put all public officials responsible with the project on immediate administrative leave without pay;
  • Freeze all current and withdraw all awarded but not started public projects involving any of the contractors, consultants, and professionals;
  • Send an immediate team of engineers to inspect the structural integrity of all government projects in which these principals were involved during the past ten years;
  • Publicly announce the names of the public officials suspended as well as all the contractors, consultants and professionals involved so members of the public would be appropriately apprised of potential problems.

At the same time he would set up an independent investigative committee of experts to analyze the failures. The committee should meet in the open and its reports released to the public upon its submission to the government.

Alternatively contract out the forensic investigations to an outside expert consulting firms that specialize in these “failure analyses.” Caution is needed however. These forensic experts are used to being paid for by their clients, usually insurance companies or defense lawyers. Thus their forte often is less with finding the truth and more with shifting liabilities away from their clients.

As most of the failed structures are public properties, the government would inevitably be a party to any subsequent dispute or lawsuit. At the same time the government would be funding these investigative firms. The only way to ensure the independence and integrity of the investigation and forestall any charges of conflict of interest would be to have the committee work in the open and thus subject to public scrutiny during their hearings.

Anything less, and we have seen too many of those, and our officials and leaders would be derelict in their duties to the public. So far we have seen only the red faces of these officials.; the next time it could be their dead bodies in the rubbles.

  1. #1 by Libra2 on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 9:22 am

    “It is a sad reflection of the citizens’ low expectations…”

    In some instances I would say the have zero expectations of their government and its leaders. Bread and butters issues prevails among the lower income group. The rich are busy accumulating their millions in local and foreign banks.
    To some, it does not matter if his leader is a murderer, a rapist, a man totally lacking in character, morality and ethics.
    Ultimately, it reflects on the people themselves. Their leaders are the mirrors of themselves.

  2. #2 by oknyua on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 9:30 am

    M Bakri Musa,

    The four points you suggested are fine, but it is like asking impossible. “Kontrak-kontrak” is a form of reward for favours rendered. It has been that way for ages now.

    Freezing contractors are not something new. There are over 30,000 black-listed contractors (all classes) in Selangor alone. The problem, they would resurface under different names and identities.

    My point is, it is almost impossible to change the system when in the end, those formulating the rules of the game has a major interest in the final score.

    The way to do it is through the ballot box. The second way, which is opened to contraversy, is for both the members of the executive and the legislator to know there is such a thing as a Moral Absolute. For me, my Moral Absolute is my God. Thank you M. Bakri.

  3. #3 by fido on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 9:31 am

    PERFORM OR GET OUT AND LET QUALIFIED PERSON DO THE JOB! Those that are linked to existing failures need to be punished severly!


  4. #4 by Short-sleeve on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 9:45 am


    I really dont know what else to say about Malaysia anymore. What else more will it take for the rakyat to act? Our education is down in the gutter. Our hospitals and health care services are of poor standards, if you are poor you are doom. Our crime rates are climbing. Foreign investments are shrinking.

    What else more will it take for the rakyat to finally see the big picture?? Our Malaysia is being bled dry by those thugs in power with divide and conquer policies. After 50 years of independence, we are more divided than ever.

    Honestly, I am starting to lose hope for this country. It is pointless if the rakyat continue to fall for the pre-election carrot traditionally dished out by UMNO led BN.

    If the next general election still see BN being returned to power with 2/3 majority, I am going to pack it in. Canada is where my family and I will be headed. It will be tough relocating to a foreign land, but at least I have my rights there.

    Let UMNO have this country and bankrupt it.

  5. #5 by oknyua on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 9:55 am

    Back in 1996 (10-year story is better as no one can trace it), someone called me: “Eh.. tuan, mahu ikut saya kah?” There was a by-election.

    I followed him to an UMNO branch office. I was in office attire, tie, everything lah. We entered the office and was immediately recognised. They ushered us inside. A few minutes later, someone called us, “Encik, boss sedang menunggu.” So my friend went in to an office alone and within minutes, came out.

    On the way back, I asked him, “Mus, engkau bagi brapa? Nak juluk mana?”

    M Bakri, that story is essence of my comment.

  6. #6 by Jimm on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 10:00 am

    All of us must understand how the BN government system works here whereby funds are being ‘evenly’ distributes among themselves.
    FYI, BN will still win2/3 majority in this coming GE as planned.
    The stakes are far too high and risky to lose.
    The UMNOs are ‘raping’ their own kind in the context of bringing up their status. They went far too deep into making up ‘stories’ and putting ‘people’ as public figures.
    Don’t give up on Malaysia as most of us have given up on the government. As long as there are lands, this country will break through all these challenges in due time.
    Anyway, Malaysia will stand firm through out the ordeal from BN soon.

  7. #7 by silhouette on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 10:35 am

    When you asked the actual contractor that did the job, he will tell you that what he got was just pittance compared to the original cost. That goes to show how much goes into the hands that were held out before him. Everyone of course will close an eye to all the undersized steel bars used, lower cement contect in the mix to make some profit.

  8. #8 by sani on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 11:02 am

    Short- sleeve

    Don’t wait any longer. This is only the 1st 50 years, don’t even imagine the next 50.

    Malaysia’s problems are many fold, like a dead end knot, the more pressure is applied the faster it choke you.

    Basically, it is tribal in Malaysia. Everyone is corrupt + May 13 is “a law”, + we think that ISA + NEP is bad. This mentality is not only in our political life, but is entrenched from womb to tomb.

    The BN had betrayed us many times + i see no reason + logic that it will change. It is better for those fortunate enough to leave + lay the ground work for our families, when not if, it explode like so many formerly rich Latin American countries did.

    For those of us, who got no where to go, we can only hope that more people like YB Lim will surface to save us. But i won’t be holding my breath. Go now + give us moral support from a far. Raise our delima to the international world, where the universal spirit of justice + human dignity prevails.

  9. #9 by tsn on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 11:10 am

    En Bakri,

    Your previous article has the answered for your appalling perception. As said in that article the majority of the people here are NARCOTICIZED BY RELIGION just as China was narcoticized by opium during the final days of Ching dynasty, rot to the core. If one is overly(pretendly) occupied by godly pursue, one is highly inclined to neglect the pursing of secular/worldly knowledge such as commercial, sciences & technology knowlegde, unfortunately it is this bunch of knowledge makes the buildings stand strong & tall.

    Due to inferior worldly knowledge, almost every unit of our society makes unnecessary & costly mistakes. The collapse, leaking…. of the buildings are just the symptoms of this root cause. It takes a great efford for non-muslims to fathom why how to pray correctly is so important for our astronaut/space traveller. It is taxpayers’ billions sweat $ .

  10. #10 by lakalaka69 on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 11:30 am

    I’m here to highlight the voilation of ‘Human Rights’ against peace loving Malaysian Indian. There is nothing that can justify their brutality and cruelty towards us.
    Please visit:-

    Talking about people like YB Lim, I would like to relate this truth to all of you. Mr. Utaya Kumar from the HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force) who as acted on behalf of the Indian community to seek justice thru’ means of international organizations have been threatened with a BULLET and a note saying “LU PUK! MAK. BUAT ISSUE PERKAUMAN. GAMPANG…”

    On the 25/11/07 Sunday 9:00am the Indian community will gather at the British HIGH COMMISION in KL (with expected participants over 50 thousand) to submit a petition to HER ROYAL HIGHNESS
    QUEEN ELIZABATH (II). To read the petition please browse the web page mentioned above.

    I humbly request for your kind support for the Indian community.

  11. #11 by grace on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 11:31 am

    short sleeve,
    I wish you luck. No one should fault you for the decision. If ever I am just as lucky or blessed as you, I would do the same.
    The very people entrusted to take careofour welfare are helping themselves to the spoils and just paying us lips services. Look atMCA and Gerakan. What do they do? Even one of the ministers safeguarde herself by applying for Australian PR! Do you think thy can get our respect? NO!NO!NO!
    No wonder RPK call them running dogs.

  12. #12 by Short-sleeve on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 11:31 am

    Dear sani,

    Thanks. It is really sad to see Malaysia, our home country be in the state it is today, 50 years after independence.

    The more I see the abuses here, the more I feel migrating is the only answer. I am an accountant, and I feel I should contribute in a country that see me as an equal than one that see me as non-bumi.

    I did my degree in Canada and honestly I like the cosmopolitan environment there i.e. Toronto. The quality of life there is way, way better. Food wise, no problem except no mamak but you can find roti canai in some Malaysian restaurants there etc. The only thing is the weather, it gets terribly cold during winter but I can live with that, no problems.

    Yes, I will be away from my parents and friends but I sincerely believe this is the price to pay to ensure the future of my two boys.

    I really dont see any light at the end of the tunnel in Msia. And I really believe the day will come when Malaysia be another Zimbabwe. Wont be surprise to see USD1.00 = RM20.00 in the near future.

  13. #13 by Toyol on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 11:48 am

    It’s no use proposing a system when a system is already in place. Its in the implementation and enforcement that counts. On top of that we need sincere people to carry out these projects.

    Unfortunately we have none in place…so buildings will collapse,leak,sink or whatever. As long as corruption is a CULTURE in Malaysia, we will continue to see these. Soon we will be de-sensitised over it!!!So long Malaysia.

  14. #14 by sani on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 11:52 am

    Short sleeve

    We used to say in Toronto, “it is better to look like a fool than to feel like a fool”. In the dead of winter we might look like a fool with all those thick winter dressing, but deep down inside we feel like a human.

    I had never stop regretting coming back on my parents’ urging. In Tun Mahthir’s own words not so long ago, “without the Non Bumis, Malaysia will be like any Afican countries”.

  15. #15 by Godfather on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 12:08 pm

    “No provocation of outrage” is completely untrue ! The rakyat are simply numbed by the number of “fumbles” by BN and by Badawi.

    Months ago, I wrote to the NST about the deplorable state of affairs at the KLIA limousine service. The NST didn’t publish my letter. It’s probably because the KLIA limo service is run by a company affiliated to UMNO. I also wrote regarding the deplorable service of MAS. Again, no publication, no reply from MAS.

    Yes, are numbed because there is no avenue to vent our frustration, no avenue to air our grievances. Thank God for the internet, or the people living outside of Bolehland will think that everything is so rosy and the future so bright as evidenced by the reportings of the mainstream press.

  16. #16 by tsn on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 12:28 pm


    Don’t worry about roti canai and skyhigh price, with innovation + technology, nothing can pose an unsolvable problem.

    If you walk in Asian grocery shop, please don’t forget to look up for pre-packed roti canai with the brand of “KETOOMBA” from Singapore, you just have to use the non-stick pan(no oil needed) to fry it or use sanwich maker to heat it up, it tastes exactly the same as from the Bangladeshi’s palm in mamak restaurant back home. It is only about RM1.00 per pc, only trouble is you have to cook your own curry, lazy enough tomato sauce will do.

  17. #17 by Filibuster on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 12:40 pm

    Words can only mean so much – real action has to be taken for improvements to be made. It’s true, what Bakri Musa said that our nation’s Government specialises in responding to events that involve loss of life, or unhideable disasters – I really do doubt that anything will be done with this collapsing building case. In fact, the last time instead of investigations being done after complaints, the “bocor” saga started as a result of irresponsible BN parliamentarians.

    I am in more favor towards consulting firms coming to do failure analyses on the buildings that still dot Malaysia (and potentially may be in danger of collapsing), than for an independent commission to do it. Somehow independent doesn’t imply independent in Malaysia – we have seen it in so many cases over the years!

  18. #18 by Traveller on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 12:53 pm

    I recently watched the National Geographic documentary on the construction of the Petronas Towers. I was impressed to see the reason they had to move from the original site and coming up with the correct concrete mixture. I think it was fortunate that Mahathir’s penchant for brand-names made him hired a well-known international architect and outside project managers, because if Malaysian graduates were to handle those tasks, we would have got the Leaning Towers instead.

  19. #19 by Short-sleeve on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 12:53 pm


    Once I go over, I guess what I will miss about Malaysia is my usual routine. You know, teh tarik sessions with close buddies, local hawker food etc etc.

    But I guess this is my sacrifice. But on the positive side, over in Toronto, there will be no bumi policies etc etc. And for that, I guess I am willing to relocate.

  20. #20 by akarmalaysian on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 2:05 pm

    Put all public officials responsible with the project on immediate administrative leave without pay;
    : damn i’d be happy to hv my leave without pay after all i ‘ve been paid.and anyway whn i come back to the office things will be normal as b4 cos this is what my government has been practising.dats why i vote for BN.

    · Freeze all current and withdraw all awarded but not started public projects involving any of the contractors, consultants, and professionals;
    :its ok…freeze and withdraw all u want.cos i hv my cousins,my aunties,my uncles,my sister in laws,my brothers in laws to pass the projects on to.

    · Send an immediate team of engineers to inspect the structural integrity of all government projects in which these principals were involved during the past ten years;
    :are u kidding me…past ten years?u wan me to die under the debris of these unreliable government structures?i’d rather be under an atap house anytime than asking me to walk under these “overly paid” structures.
    · Publicly announce the names of the public officials suspended as well as all the contractors, consultants and professionals involved so members of the public would be appropriately apprised of potential problems
    : yes…by the time everyone has been suspended…all sudah retired.dats government efficiency.malaysia boleh.

  21. #21 by oknyua on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 2:18 pm

    akarmalaysian, you’re damn right, man.

    You know what shocked me was the transporter’s lorries that are owned by names like: Rohani, Rohana, Rokiah… all women’s names. When I asked the driver who the owners were, “Kita tak tau. Kita sewa saja.” Had I ever seen any woman driving that big 30-foooted trailer? Have we ever asked who Rohana’s husband, brother, uncle?

  22. #22 by tsn on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 2:22 pm


    Teh tarik sessions with buddies too not a problem. Teh tarik can be served easily, only thing limit your tarik, the more you tarik, the more bacteria you have to gulp in. Buddies can be convinced to cross over to Toronto, if they haven’t seen the needs yet, just cajole them to visit this blog, they will cabut even before you.

  23. #23 by borrring on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 3:14 pm

    Good luck, Short-Sleeve.

    M.Bakri, there’s nothing to be surprised anymore. For me, I don’t expect anything from the government anymore. What’s the use? All the can think of is to enrich themselves while they still can.

  24. #24 by Short-sleeve on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 3:29 pm

    “For me, I don’t expect anything from the government anymore. What’s the use? All the can think of is to enrich themselves while they still can.” – borrring

    Spot on. Couldnt agree with you more.

    Let UMNO bankrupt Malaysia.

  25. #25 by undergrad2 on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 9:24 pm

    “One view is that these structures are so poorly built that they collapse literally after the last nail was hammered and before they could be occupied.” Bakri Musa

    I can just about picture in my mind’s eye the horror overcoming the man who hammered that last nail!

  26. #26 by budak on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 10:10 pm

    Harap pagar, pagar makan padi…
    Harap Pak Lah, sudah lah…
    Harap UMNO, masuk dalam Temenggor…

  27. #27 by undergrad2 on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 10:39 pm

    “Thank God for the internet…” GODFATHER

    That holds true even for developed countries like the United States.

  28. #28 by undergrad2 on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 10:44 pm

    “Rohani, Rohana, Rokiah… all women’s names. When I asked the driver …” oknyua

    I suspect it is because the owners of these lorries or businesses have named them after their 1st wives (if not their mistresses) to keep them from rioting against their decision to take more wives on board. Needless to say the practice gives these wives a false sense of security.

  29. #29 by greenacre on Monday, 19 November 2007 - 11:13 pm

    The concern of a citizen can be dwarfed by the powers of a government whose hands feet and mouth are everywhere just like the octopus tentacles. You name it …tv ,newspaper and radio all bapa punya.

  30. #30 by Negarakuuuuu on Tuesday, 20 November 2007 - 1:52 pm

    Short-sleeve Says: Let UMNO bankrupt Malaysia

    The world is flat. Picture Malaysia in 10, 20 years. New economies are growing around Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, attracting foreign investors without any “terms & conditions”. What’s the future for Malaysia? Who would want to invest in a country like Malaysia?

    Najib “declared” our country a SUPERNATION by 2057? Hahahahahahaaaaaaaaaaa. But then again, Khir Toyo “declared” Selangor a “developed” state.

    Poor Tun Mahathir’s Vision 2020…..I guess the Vision’s not so 2020 anymore.

  31. #31 by boh-liao on Tuesday, 20 November 2007 - 7:47 pm

    The Straits Times, Nov 20 2007: Singapore moves closer to hosting the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010.

    Five cities were short-listed by the IOC panel: Moscow (score of 7.5 to 8.4), Singapore (7.4 to 7.9), Athens (6.1 to 7.2), Turin (5.5 to 6.3) and Bangkok (5.4 to 5.7).

    The proposals of Debrecen (Hungary), Guatemala City, Kuala Lumpur and Poznan (Poland) FAILED to impress the IOC panel.

    Onc upon a time, Nazri claimed that the little red dot is not a country. Can we learn something from Singapore?

  32. #32 by ChinNA on Tuesday, 20 November 2007 - 10:52 pm

    What is an expectation? Expectations are beliefs about what will occur in the future based on today’s known results of similar actions.

    In Malaysia, what is the root-cause of the citizen’s apathy? The ability to find the root-cause and resolve it will be the beginning of the end of citizen apathy.

    The root cause is obvious, the resolving solution might not be.

    Thinking out loud.

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