Many of us have been helpless and at the mercy of all-powerful appointed councillors and heads who are meant to serve us. Local council elections will thus benefit us, the ordinary rakyat, asserts Rani Rasiah.
Ramli bought this nice little corner house in a low-cost taman in Sungai Siput and would have lived happily ever after with his family, if not for the public drain outside his home.
His troubles began five years ago when he realised that the drain was broken and was retaining water instead of facilitating its flow. Mosquitoes began breeding and his wife featured among the 80 dengue casualties in the taman.
Ramli wasn’t the average apathetic Malaysian though. With his passable Malay, he wrote a complaint to the district officer. Letters were also sent out to various other officials – the State Health Department head, the district health department head, the Minister of Health, the Menteri Besar. He harassed the district office countless times, pressing them to act before someone’s life was lost.
Meanwhile, the drain water gradually began seeping out. With heavy rain, the smelly drain water flooded his house. The foundation of his little house started eroding. When cars passed by, his house along with those of his neighbours shook. Home was neither sweet nor safe anymore for blameless Ramli. With cracks appearing on the walls, it stopped looking pretty as well.
As a last resort, Ramli took the town council to court to seek a remedy. On 24 February 2010, the magistrate rejected Ramli’s application with costs.
You can predict that the tenacious Ramli will appeal. But will he get justice? If councillors and local council heads were elected, there may be less arrogance on their part. Ramli is not asking for alms. If they had just done their job and looked after public amenities, Ramli would still be a happy man.
Many of us have been in Ramli’s situation more than once – helpless, and at the mercy of all-powerful appointed councillors and heads who are meant to serve us.
Local council elections will benefit us, the ordinary rakyat. It remains one of the more glaring unfulfilled promises of the last general election.
Rani Rasiah, an Aliran member, is coordinator of the Oppressed People’s Network (Jerit)