Earlier this week, there were a number of postings by Kota Samarahan residents who expressed their disappointment with the traffic jam that plagued them day and night.
Understandably, I echo their frustration. Why wouldn’t I? I am among the hundreds if not thousands who patiently wait in a traffic congestion every day to get to Kuching.
And I also note that after living in Kota Samarahan for the better part of the last decade, the state of the gridlock these few weeks has become unbearable.
I can only assume that this was probably because of the reopening of the economy following its slump due to the Covid-19 pandemic along with the reopening of schools.
Of course, in expressing their frustration, some residents (and non-residents) took potshots at the Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) state government — who was recently returned with a supermajority in the state election.
They began harping on the previous light rail transit (LRT) proposal which, at one time was looked into by the state government in a bid to improve the state’s public transport facilities.
Soon after, opposition supporters joined the chorus and began to question each and every policy of the state government.
They also made fun of the word ketek ajak — Sarawakian for “just click” in an apparent jab at Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg who usually uses it as anecdotes in his speeches.
Whenever the chief minister uses the word, it was to refer to the state of the technology now where everything is just a click away in the internet world.
He would often use it when talking about how Sarawak wants to improve its rural telecommunication coverage, where everyone can be connected from every nook and corner of the state.
He would also describe how the e-commerce technology of today has made life easier and simpler for the people — and that without realising it, technology has benefited all of us in our daily lives.
Being a humble leader that he is, he will be the first to admit that when he introduced the digital economy vision months after assuming the chief minister’s post, the idea was not well received by all.
Apparently at the time, many thought the vision was too farfetched for Sarawak given the vast area of the state and the scattered population.
This was not helped by the number of areas which has yet to receive satisfactory telecommunication and internet coverage at the time.
But come 2020, when the world was brought to its knees by the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic and where the need for digital solutions were all the talk — Sarawak was ready.
Bar several areas where the improvements to the telecommunication coverage was still ongoing, the whole state had welcomed the prompted digitalisation with open arms.
Sarawak was leading the whole country through the introduction of digital solutions to battle COVID-19.
We were the first state to introduce a wristband tracking system of person under investigation (PUI} which was instrumental in our handling of the pandemic.
The smart traffic light, which was meant to reduce traffic congestion citywide was a twofer in monitoring the number of vehicles travelling during the movement control order (MCO).
This was along with providing the necessary infrastructure to allow for e-hailing and e-commerce services. Abang Johari in his speeches following Covid-19 noted this.
“Even the old folk have embraced this — they can now order groceries online, even fresh fish from our fishermen,” he said.
True enough, what started as a farfetched idea to many was realised and I am willing to bet that many other proposals in the pipelines will too.
So be it LRT, which was shot down countless times by the opposition — who then claimed that it will bankrupt the state — instead wanting the state to provide more buses.
It did the same too when the idea of autonomous rail transit (ART) was mooted in place of LRT which was a more cost-efficient solution leveraging on the existing road network.
While some say such may be a ‘white elephant’ project, I beg to differ — we should not only assess the needs of the people now, but the needs of the future too.
The thriving district is experiencing a boom in population — its motorists too.
I appeal to everyone — Kota Samarahan dwellers included — to be patient. The state government is doing all it can to resolve the traffic woes and we can see the results in due time.