Our Malaysia: Public Transport and Millennials

Fatima’s Honda Ex5 buzzed into the busy street of Puchong in Malaysia. She departed from her home with a foreign sense of anxiety. This was her first day taking motorcycle to Sunway City, where she worked as a salesperson. Sunway BRT had been her main mean of transport for the past few months. However, the RM18 expense for a return trip every day soon proved to be a heavy financial burden.

At the tender age of 22, Fatima was new to the workforce and she earned only slightly above the minimum wage of RM 1,000 per month. She was hoping to save more money by not taking the public transport – The irony is not lost on her. Fending away the sense of helplessness sinking in, Fatima redirected her focus on the road.

She was praying under her breath for a safe traveling ahead when – “HONK!” The sudden outburst of car horn from behind caught her by surprise.

Picking the Colour to Paint Malaysia

The 14th general election of Malaysia is just around the corner. More Millennials than ever are participating in this vote for their nation’s future. Perhaps it is finally time for our new bloods to inject fresh ideology into our current political stream, paving the road for meaningful changes.

However, In order to achieve that, it will means our new generation has to be first free from the same false political outlook that haunts our nation for decades.

Stand for Nothing, Fall for Everything

Some of us often oversimplify the political climate in Malaysia. It doesn’t (really) matter if it’s the allegedly private channelling of RM 2.67 billion into a private account; it also doesn’t matter if it’s the unsustainable development that led to devastating loss when extreme weather slapped us in the face.

The question is, and has always been, which political party is responsible for the crisis.

It’s always easy to portray one party as the ‘villain’, and by definition the opposing party should be the ‘hero’. In fact, Some of us wish it was true so much that, at varying degree, we started to believe it.

This monochromatic political outlook forfeits the needs for any meaningful check-and-balance. Since our chosen leaders are the heroes – and heroes are supposed to be flawless – we do not hold them accountable to the high standard they should represent.

Our political leaders are naturally not blind to this unrealistic sentiment some of the Rakyat has. And they play their cards right into it.

This is when the game gets really dangerous.

The Hero We Wanted, But Not We Needed

One of the highlight in the manifesto proposed by the main opposition party in Malaysia, Pakatan Harapan, is the abolishment of toll. This will undoubtedly wins the hearts of many road users who are already suffocating financially.

This kind of announcement is exactly what most of the Rakyat want to hear.

But is this really what we need to hear?

In fact, this narrowed focus on private vehicles will undoubtedly encourages more traffic on the road. It is telling the Rakyat to pump more greenhouse gases into our atmosphere (completely ignoring the deadly threat poses by climate change) while aggravating the traffic congestion condition in our nation. The escalated tension between drivers that ensued will surely lead to more road rage cases and fatal traffic accidents in increasing severity.

As highlighted by environmental journalist Naomi Klein in her book ‘This Changes Everything’, what we really need is massive investment in “affordable public transit and clean light rail accessible to all. And urban design that clusters essential services like schools and health care along the transit routes and in pedestrian-friendly areas.”

Doing the right thing will inevitably means taking the giant oil companies and automotive companies by the horns. But it is something that must be done in Malaysia. Not only for the welfare of the Rakyat but also a S.O.S attempt to save ourselves from burning down our home.

Public transportation ranked next to last among Malaysians’ priority, according to survey conducted by IPSOS.

You can bet your money on our political leaders being fully aware of this fact. But they also know they will be making a lot of enemies along the line but not earning many votes as they should. In their eyes, this is essentially a high-risk, low-return investment. At least that is what the statistic says – The Rakyat is simply not demanding it.

So why aren’t we?

Answering the Battle Call

To her terror, Fatima found herself within an inch of getting hit by a speeding car. It was driving dangerously close to her while flashing headlights – forcing her to make way. The stress was almost overwhelming.  Fatima slowly steered to the side and willed herself to stay calm. She was still choked by the same heavily polluted air that was irritating her eyes.

Bathed in sweat under the unforgiving sun, Fatima felt dreadful looking at the seemingly endless line of traffic that stretched into the horizon. Drawing a long breath, she reminded herself to never give in. She simply refused to live the rest of her life in this dire state.

Change will comes, Fatima believed, and when Malaysia calls, she will be first of many who answer.