Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Watching and blogging for a better-run city
Norman Fernandez

Norman Fernandez is a lawyer and vice-chairman of Johor DAP. In 2004 and 2008, he contested the Stulang state seat.

EFFECTIVE: Norman Fernandez runs the JB Watch blog.

PREVIOUSLY, whenever I saw, heard or received any public complaints, I would write letters to the local authorities to complain or telephone their office asking to speak to the person-in-charge.

Most of the time, I never got a reply. My calls were met with replies such as “menghadiri kursus” (attending courses), at a briefing or on leave.

Returning telephone calls does not seem to be in the work culture of some local authority staff and officials.

Fed up with knocking on closed doors, I had three choices — throw in the towel and turn a blind eye to problems as I am not an elected state assemblyman or local councillor, continue writing letters to the local councils or think of some other way to highlight the complaints and shortcomings.

Suddenly an idea struck me. Why not start a blog?

Five months ago, I started www.johorbahruwatch.blogspot.com, with the motto “Watching Johor Baru”.

I was not comfortable with the idea of walking around with a digital camera. Since my handphone is equipped with a fairly good camera, I was able to take photographs immediately when I saw some shoddy work.

All I needed to do next was to upload it to my blog using my laptop.

Since February, I have uploaded many images of clogged drains, potholes, uncovered manholes and damaged public facilities in the city.

I have also highlighted problems of missing metal covers, tilting lamp-posts, illegal advertisement posters and foreigners who make a living peddling wallets and other items on the streets.

When I upload the images on my blog, I also send a letter of complaint via email to MBJB. Since I set up the blog, I feel local authorities have taken notice of what I post on it. Things get resolved, although not always as quickly as I hope.

Highlighting the problem areas in the city, via the blog, has become more effective than writing and faxing to the authorities. Now, I even address my complaint directly to the authorities, including the Johor Baru mayor, on my blog. And the responses I received are “better” and faster. Maybe they are reading my blog.

For example, recently, city council contractors who were engaged in beautification work on the sidewalks left metal bolts protruding there. It was an accident waiting to happen. What was shocking was that no one from the council had come around to check on the completed work.

After a couple of weeks, just as I had anticipated, disaster struck when a 78-year-old man tripped and injured himself after hitting the protruding metal bolts at Jalan Gereja.

I took photographs of the injured man, put the pictures of the dangerous metal bolts in my blog, wrote a letter to the council informing them what had happened and demanded compensation for him.

The local press also highlighted the incident. Within 48 hours, all the protruding metal bolts around Jalan Gereja and Jalan Trus were covered with plastic cones. For good measure, and to prevent the cones from being stolen, they were secured with metal screws.

Why didn’t the council think of this in the first place? I have also been told that the council, as a gesture of goodwill, has given the injured old man a small amount of money.

I am pleased that my blog has helped someone. I am also glad to note that newspapers are downloading my blog and using the pictures in their stories.

What is clear is that the Internet and blogs are an excellent medium which can be used to interact with the local authorities.

It is obvious the local authorities would not feel comfortable to see shortcomings and shoddy work highlighted openly.

I am a proud Johorian, born in Kluang, and have made Johor Baru my workplace and home.

Naturally, I ought to take pride in my city and help make it a great city. As such, I must ensure that the local authority delivers good service to its residents.

I will continue to highlight issues pertaining to Johor Baru and MBJB in my blog.

As Reported in NST Johor Buzz 01.07.2008.

No comments:

Post a Comment