Saturday, August 29, 2009

“Anywhere but my backyard” syndrome

Last month I wrote an article for Sin Chew entitled Something Has to Change:

WHEN I WAS first approached to be a columnist in Sin Chew, I was thrilled! I know this would be a great opportunity for me to communicate my thoughts and views to thousands of Malaysian readers.

Yet at the same time, I was apprehensive of the fact that I may struggle jotting down my somewhat limited experience in public service. I do not believe I am a good writer. An honest writer- yes but not a natural writer.

Prior to winning the elections, I have never been involved in public service. At the age of 29, I had my ideals of how this nation should be, how my tax should be used by the government, how Malaysians ought to behave in order to be a truly civilised society etc. The issues I had to deal with as an assemblyman opened my eyes to the ugly side of our society – something I was not prepared to see.

Just last evening, I was having a casual chat with my Malay neighbour who happens to be a lecturer of a local college. He was telling me of his plans to migrate with his family. When asked why, he said Malaysia is in a sad state of affairs. The people here have stopped caring for each other. Just as we were standing outside our houses, in the midst of this conversation, a lavish car was speeding past us – in a housing area, in the evening, when there are many children playing outside. He said : “This is precisely why I’m thinking of leaving! This person driving this car is definitely well to do and should be able to understand how to be considerate and look out for others.”

As we continued our conversation, we spoke about illegal dumping. Few days ago, I noticed that someone had dumped his/her old furniture outside my house. My neighbour went on to tell me that he had seen who the person was and that this person too is a lecturer!

I drive around my neighbourhood very frequently, for one reason – to check on the performance of the Alam Flora contractors.

But this article is not about the contractors, I will explore this another time. When I drive around, I frequently notice the illegal dumping trend happening even in an urban constituency like Subang Jaya. Neighbours would throw furniture and rubbish by the side of the road, often times in front of another’s house and not their own. My husband calls this the “anywhere but my backyard” syndrome.

This is a very selfish mindset. I have seen people driving Mercedes and yet throw rubbish out of their posh car. I have seen motorcyclists littering too. I have seen with my own eyes Malays, Chinese and Indians littering too. It has nothing to do with race, status or whether you are educated or not. Something has to change.

Some examples of selfish behaviour I have encountered:
- “We want LRT, you can build it anywhere but not in front of my house.”
- “Futsal court is good for the children; you can build it in front of those neighbours’ houses but not in front of my house.”
- “Crime is rising and neighbours should patrol the streets; I will support you but count me out from walking.”
- “Composting bins should be promoted by MPSJ to educate our young but please place them somewhere else and not behind my house.”

This “anywhere but my backyard” syndrome has to go. We need to start thinking for others and not just for those in our households. We need to start thinking, acting and functioning as a society. Love your neighbour as you love yourself. Changing the government is not enough.

The people have to change their mindset as well. The "First World Infrastructure, Third World Mentality" Malaysian malaise has to go. Something has to change. Someone has to change. And only then will we truly be a developed nation.

Yesterday there was another article in The Star highlighting the problem of illegal dumping in our neighbourhood. I urge every resident to keep an eye on their neighbourhood and if you notice your neighbours dumping illegally, quickly highlight the matter to MPSJ or talk to your neighbour politely, reminding him/her that such a practice is unacceptable.


tan said...

Many USJ residents are fond of leaving their dog shit all around the parks. Wonder what can be done to curb such inconsiderate behaviour.

Anonymous said...

YB, please blog your comments on gated and fencing community with social implications. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me Tan, what about residents' cat shit? Don't just single out dogs. The cat shit is not just in the parks but in our gardens! So, what can be done about this then?

Liz said... spoke of everything which had been bothering me.... I am one of those unfortunate one who has such neighbours. From soiled diapers to old sofa, to large tree trunk. I have to keep alam flora to collect other's rubbish, then keep putting up sign that 'the spot' is not trash spot.. Can you come to my taman to give a talk on this and other relevant matter? We can meet to discuss further

Anonymous said...

Illegal dumping is definitely a problem.
But another problem that happens is that the waste disposal trucks refuse to collect some of the rubbish from the houses.
Residents then resort to illegal dumping sites where it will actually be collected by the disposal trucks.
Strange but true.

Tan said...

Anon 11:33pm, Agreed. Cat shit in our gardens is a real nuisance. If the cats are from your neighbors, try talking to them. I had good neighbours who responded positively when I brought this up with them...I still need to clean up their shit once a while but not every other day as in the past. Perhaps MPSJ can also do something about the stray cat population.

keith said...

this problem can be partly solved IF we the resident living within the same community take the initiative/courage to CONFRONT (civilly or otherwise) the idiotic culprits dumping their garbage/rubbish/animal poo etc, anywhere, except at their own place.
I have no hesitation putting the ignorant-nincompoops into their respective place!

BUT the initiative must come from us. We simply cannot turn a blind eye and hope some one else will solve this problem...

Liz said...

Just to add, Alam Flora has been pretty efficient in collecting waste (garden waste and other little misc at times) from the roadside, for my area in USJ12. This is probably after many calls to MPSJ, who also encouraged me to call the Alam Flora supervisor directly. I think with close and constant follow up, they do have room to improve their service level.

On those culprit matter, the challenge is really in catching them red-handed before you can sound them off. I have many times wanted to install CCTV just to do so..but it's rather costly. However, having caught 2 neighbours in action, and spoken to them (they didn't like it..eventhough they are clearly the uncivic minded one!), the problem is far reduced recently.

And, thanks to Alam Flora who also pick up the roadside trash more frequently now, neighbours seem 'shy' to be the lone rubbish dispenser along the roadside. They seems to do it more to a pile of other existing trash.

Anonymous said...


Just a suggestion for the problem of speeding cars.

In S'pore, the govt place a lot of speed bumps. In fact the speed bumps are almost everywhere to deter speeding especially near public housing. Some of the speed bumps are only 10 to 15 metre away from the next one bec of the way some drivers drive and there were four speed bumps within 20 metres of each other.That would deter speeding and keep your area safe for the children.