ONE of the biggest problems in Malaysia is that we do not have the audacity to truly automate and regulate whatever laws we have, let alone the latest one we introduced.
Consider the following – the Ministry of Health recently introduced a regulation barring Malaysians from smoking at open-air spaces in eateries, with a penalty of RM2,500 imposed on the eatery and RM10,000 for the smoker.
While they managed to implement this regulation in Parliament, fining eight people, how are they going to do it throughout Malaysia?
Are they going to plant someone in each and every restaurant, roadside stall, mamak restaurant and even roadside stall in the country to implement it? Are they expecting every security guard at a mall to ride a Segway and conduct a citizen’s arrest, like the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop?
Even more vexing was a statement from the deputy health minister saying that vaping will not be policed unless it contains nicotine.
In my mind, this conjured up an image of a mamak restaurant being raided like a nightclub, with each patron being told to hand over their IC and every vape device being tested for traces of nicotine before being asked to leave.
The problem is still the same when implementing a non-smoking law at every national park. What is the government going to do to implement it? Have the authorities hike into reserve forests and issue summonses to each and every smoker in the park?
All of these seem nonsensical to any logical and rational thinking Malaysian, even if they hate the smoke emitted from smokers.
The issue of automation would make all these easier. For example, why are restaurants and eateries not equipped with smoke detectors as a nationwide initiative? In fact, why don’t we have such a policy for apartments and high density residential and mixed development units?
In fact, this was the purpose of having an automated enforcement system (AES) in the past. While the privatisation of the deal was lopsided and unacceptable, that has been made right by the current government.
However, such a system can be used to enforce more than just speeding laws for cars.
The AES can be upgraded to monitor emissions, yet another regulation that is not viewed seriously, even if the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change wants to push the blame on to factories and Lynas, when it should look to our roads and highways.
At the same time, the AES can be a boon for pedestrians, to monitor motorists who beat red lights and put them at risk, which can happen even in residential zones and schools gazetted with speed limits of 30km an hour.
Furthermore, such automation can also be implemented to monitor the biggest problem with public transport – reliability.
For far too long, buses have been given leeway for being late due to traffic. A Global Positioning System (GPS) has been used in express buses since 2014, attached to a so-called “black box”.
Why not implement a similar programme for feeder buses? The technology to monitor the traffic via the AES, coupled with a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system and the GPS monitoring technology would be able to provide accurate times to each and every bus stop, allowing people to time their journey without having to wait, clueless as to when the next bus will arrive.
Of course, with better resolution for CCTVs towards high definition imagery, it could even be used to monitor littering – yet another regulation that has failed in implementation.
And that reliability will translate into better ridership. Coupled with increase enforcement in the form of emissions monitoring and the AES, this will take more cars off the road both in urban and rural areas. Of course, it will also lower emissions as well.
These technologies, of course, are not new. We have even seen police panic button technology implemented into smartphones using GPS technology to find out where they are needed. This same technology is implemented for senior citizens to call for first responders and an ambulance.
Yet another implementation that should be done rather than expect these individuals to somehow make the journey to a clinic even with a B40 insurance plan.
Again, nothing above is new in terms of implementation in other countries, which can be seen in cities like London, New York, Tokyo, Seoul and even going just down south to Singapore.
The problem in Malaysia has always been lacking in political will to implement such plans.
So that is how you can couple sustainability, automation and enforcement altogether.
The technology and systems are available, the regulations have been used in other cities, and yet, our policymakers seem to be oblivious to such adaptations, regardless of how many times they go out of the country for a “working visit”.
Yes, initial implementation and maintenance will have costs, but having it implemented to the point of not even forgiving a single speeding summons regardless of the person’s rank or profession (read: politicians) will guarantee revenue for the government while ensuring that Malaysians adhere to proper regulations or find an alternative for themselves.
Hafidz Baharom is a public relations practitioner. Comments: email@example.com