You’ll know when polls are near …

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who don’t vote.

George Jean Nathan, American drama critic 

Imagine having to face the daily stress and tension driving on the nation’s roadways, putting up with traffic jams – whether it’s the daily bottleneck when we commute to work, or endless delays on highways at the beginning of the holiday season.

As if these problems aren’t enough to drive us up the wall, the sheer amount of cracks, delamination, and potholes has forced drivers, yours truly included, to set aside a few hundred ringgit monthly for vehicle repair and maintenance. And the cumulative amount in a year can run into thousands of ringgit.

Commuting on roads in opposition-held states, especially Selangor, can be a nuisance – and very stressful. And if you are staying in Petaling Jaya, you will know why!

Poorly maintained roads with large potholes have caused severe damages to vehicles, even causing deaths, especially to motorcyclists and pillion riders.

Now, you will be wondering what poorly maintained roadways have got to do with elections, as the heading of my article indicates. Alright, read on.

Since the 2018 parliamentary polls, several pledges and promises have been made by politicians across the political divide. Some of these promises have been fulfilled – including promises of good communication networks and infrastructure facilities – while others will have to wait, I guess for a few years more.

Lately, many roads are under repair. The Selangor government is “racing against time” to repair several roads and streets, some of them with the worst potholes ever. I am staying in Kelana Jaya, Petaling Jaya where the roads are in pretty bad shape.

I understand numerous complaints were forwarded to the local councils over the last four years, requesting the relevant authorities to plug the menacing potholes, and tar seal several stretches of roads and streets, but these complaints fell on deaf ears.  

But with the 15th general election (GE15) expected to be called anytime soon – some say at the latest September this year – the elected assemblymen and members of parliament, the local councils and Public Works Department are emerging from their “cosy cocoons”. 

It’s a common sight since the last four months to see Bangladeshi and Indonesian workers with sealcoating machines and steamrollers repairing our roads and streets and plugging potholes.

Drainage in most parts of Selangor are also improved and repaired after years of neglect. Several rundown premises are being spruced up.

Yeh, yeh, election is coming, and our elected representatives are more visible now. Some of these hibernating politicians know the right moment to wake up. They know election is around the corner.

I received this message in a WhatsApp group last Friday, and I reproduce it, unedited:

“Suddenly we seeing development every where. Roads tarsealed. Pothole-infected jalan raya in several areas of Selangor sedang dibaiki. Macam pelihan raya umum tidak lama lagi! The MPs and ADUNs visible now. You see menteris crisscross from one state to another.

You also see the representatives more often sekrang. I tried to contact my ADUN since the last elections but susah nak jumpa dia. Handphone pun sentiasa tutup!!! But last few months I read in the portals and papers he is organising meet people events and other functions.

I and my niece waited at one of the events and asked him to help my niece get some scholarships …. He said no problem tuan!! Suddenly I am made a tuan. Wow!  Boleh tahan this ADUN. Only now he say no problem but mana dia last few years. Selepas election dia hilang. Baru sekrang muka dia nampak.

Macam ini kah mau undi dia lagi. Let the rakyat bring him down ini kali lah!!!”

So much for that WhatsApp message.

Anyway, ordinary citizens will usually have a hunch when elections are near. In my case I rely on a few clues. 

I know election is near when representatives:

  • Appear more often at functions which are held frequently – sometimes weekly.
  • Suddenly they can be easily reached and are approachable; they are readily available via their cellphones too, after they have been incommunicado for months on end.
  • Are frequently seen at their service centres.
  • Hand out grants and funds to organisations and individuals.
  • Invite you to their homes for “discussions”.
  • Make weekly trips to their constituencies.
  • Appear more often at tragic incidents like fire and hand over donations.

Of course, to me the tell-tale signs are when roads and drainage systems are repaired, sometimes even late at night; and you see steamrollers and sealcoating machines and their operators working hard. 

Hopefully, our representatives change their attitude and serve their people sincerely and wholeheartedly!

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