Use the right tools, proceed slowly and carefully, and you can walk through even a minefield safely.

– Benjamin Smith, English actor

The iconic year 2020 ended with the nefarious Covid-19 virus still running amok around the world with no end in sight.

Despite this, optimism is the one thing that always keeps people moving forward with their daily lives and chores.

However, as we entered the New Year, it was not a good January 1 for two families in Sarawak.

Tragedy struck, when their 4WD vehicle with nine persons inside plunged into the Batang Lupar at the Triso ferry point with all nine losing their lives.

This was not the first ferry point tragedy in Sarawak and unfortunately, it will not be the last. There has been much blame and criticism flying around in social media.

It was reported that the Batang Lupar Bridge was meant to have been built with Putrajaya and Sarawak sharing the RM800 million-plus cost on a 50:50 basis.

Then along came the Pakatan Harapan government and cancelled it along with several other much needed and essential projects for the people in Sarawak.

Our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has committed himself to funding and building this bridge (and many other projects) as part of his 80-plus initiatives under the GPS government.

It has also been pointed out by many that ideally such ferry points should have guardrails on the sides of the ramp.

There should also be a separate anti-slip footpath with handrails to and from the ferry. These ferry point ramps can be quite slippery and therefore ‘slip and fall’ issues are ever-present.

Some passengers stay seated in the car to avoid walking on these slippery ramps. Safe footpaths along the ramps will encourage people to disembark from their vehicles to board the ferries.

Perhaps now some minister will accuse me and others who make similar suggestions of being a smartass. Oh, well, it’s OK lah as long as these improvements take place and lives are saved in the future.

Although we have all the laws, planners, safety agencies and tons of safety awareness programmes — the ‘culture of safety’ has still not been assimilated into our DNA.

Since we are on the point of safety, recently our Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Khairy Jamaluddin, encountered a depression on a road surface, otherwise known as a pothole and unfortunately took a fall while riding his bicycle. 

It is very fortunate he is safe and had relatively minor injuries. The offending pothole was immediately sealed by the authorities concerned, accompanied by an apology which most others would never receive.

We all have at one time or another had similar encounters, but mostly in our cars. Potholes are usually more dangerous for those who use bicycles or motorcycles.

Only this past Sunday, a 75-year-old motorcyclist fell off his motorcycle due to a pothole on the road in Kuala Lumpur. Sadly, he died at the scene of the accident.

Even if your car hits a pothole, it can ruin your car tires, damage the wheel alignment, damage the car suspension, destroy the shock absorbers, demolish the bumper, and bend the axles.

The repair cost of such impacts can be significant, not to mention the possible loss of lives.

So, let’s pray that the authorities concerned will focus on safety issues for the sake of the people. There is a tendency to forget and slip back into a tidak apa attitude after some time, only to see the same thing happening again.

Going back to the end of 2020 and the run-up to 2021, some people were treated to a Sarawak New Year Countdown 2021 event in Kuching. Normally this type of event would not even register a ‘zero’ on the Richter scale of politics. 

However, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah unintentionally managed to sensationalise the matter by referring to civil servants in the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) as ‘smartass’ in connection with the implementation of the SOPs related to an artiste performing at the event.

This did not go down well with many people, civil servants and the public alike, especially considering that these are the people working hard to keep Covid-19 at bay.

Besides, the event also triggered questions on having 1,000 people invited to an event amid a pandemic.

Again, is this another case of throwing caution to the wind?

Anyway, let us do our part to stay safe and keep people safe in 2021 and beyond.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.