Our boldness in speaking out against vandalism may encourage other individuals to do likewise, writes Penny Wong.
Before I left Penang for my studies in 2015, the construction of the MRT in KL had already started. It caused terrible jams, roadblocks at night and many other obstructions for motorists around my neighbourhood. After months of building the MRT stations, the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line was finally completed and opened to the public on 17 July 2017.
Although I have now settled in Penang, I feel excited because I now have a better option instead of driving to the city centre when I am in KL every two or three months. I don’t have to be stuck in a jam for an hour or more just to reach my destination. Indeed, public transport is the way to go for Malaysia to become a developed nation.
“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport.” – Enrique Penalosa
But about a week later, I was shocked to see photographs on my Facebook feed of the MRT being vandalised. Chairs were scratched, toilets broken, walls damaged, a faucet knob missing. I also saw a couple of photos of a broom on the roof. This was on top of the expected littering around the MRT stations. Much public money was used to fix the damage.
On social media, users expressed disbelief over people sitting on the floor around the concourse area and of a baby hammock hung on the overhead grab bar. Other photos flooded social media showing children attempting to climb the Rukun Negara monument at Merdeka Station or using the overhead grab bar to swing around.
I felt let down: before I could experience the MRT, it had already been abused by irresponsible MRT users.
Why didn’t these vandals play by the rules when using these public facilities? Do they even know that they are not supposed to do these things?
For those culprits who might know better, it looks as if they have not taken responsibility for the proper use of these public facilities. They have not thought about the consequences of misusing and dirtying the space. Neither did they show any sense of appreciation for a more comfortable public transport service
The culprits behind these acts of vandalism were selfish and ignorant. They should have been aware that the MRT is a facility that is shared with other users. Wouldn’t it be more in keeping with community solidarity to keep the MRT clean and presentable?
As for those who might not even know that they should not vandalise and litter around the MRT stations, what can be done to raise their awareness levels?
MRT Corp strategic communications director Najmuddin Abdullah took to Instagram to highlight the vandalism in the MRT: “We provide a first class facility but if the society is not ready with first class mentality to embrace it, we are going to waste a lot of money and time unnecessarily to do the repair works.”
Najmuddin’s lament is not new. For years, we have been used to hearing that Malaysians have first-class facilities but a third-class mentality. But what can be done to foster a first-class mentality? How and when do we want to put a stop to such vandalism?
Those of us who are more civic conscious need to speak up and advise those inclined to vandalism about the responsible way to use the MRT.
We might think that our voices might not be significant but our boldness may encourage other individuals to speak out against vandalism. We need to care for society because we are part of it.
Photographs continue to pop up on my Facebook feed as concerned Malaysians speak out against vandalism and rude MRT users. This outspokenness is one way to create more awareness of the problem. Awareness also needs to be raised as to the proper etiquette of using public transport such as standing on one side of the escalator or occupying only one seat in the MRT.
Strict enforcement may help. Although this may be harsher, commuters would start realising that they would be punished if they break the rules. Would-be vandals would then start to think about the consequences of their acts.
It is a collective effort. We need one another to help Malaysians to develop a first-class mentality – and it starts with us.
Penny Wong is an anthropology and sociology student with a local university. She is currently doing an internship with Aliran.