WHENEVER we talk about cleanliness and littering, we can’t help but take Singapore as a yardstick.
Then the next question will be: “Why Singapore can, and Malaysia cannot?” The obvious answer will be: “Oh, Singapore is small in size and population, while Malaysia is bigger and so is its population”.
Arguably, these answers are true. But the question is whether we can be a clean and litter-free country by 2020 — the year we have set for ourselves to achieve developed nation status.
Let us not talk about making the whole country as squeky-clean as Singapore. Just making our capital city, Kuala Lumpur, or perhaps Penang cleaner will be an achievement in itself. If this can materialise, it will have a domino effect on other cities and towns in Malaysia.
Our attitude to change is what counts! I would like to ask: “Can we? And if not, why not?”
Recently, a visitor from the United States gave some suggestions (“Beauty of country marred by litter problem” – The Star, April 22). I was touched by his frank remarks about how beautiful Malaysia is. Surely this beauty can be further expanded to a clean environment.
The visitor, Jim McNeil, who found Penang to be much cleaner than it was previously, suggested that this can be improved, similar to what has taken place in the US and South Korea – with the aid advertising campaigns, fines and a citizen clean-up programme on special days.
This is easier said than done. Not that I am pessimistic about the idea, but somehow there is more to it than just campaigns, fines and the occasional gotong-royong.
In Singapore, there are signs everywhere that warn of fines for littering, smoking and eating or drinking where these are not permitted, taking in durians into trains. However, it’s rare to hear of anyone actually being fined. The penalty is there to deter — and it does just that!
Can we, in Malaysia, actually put this to the test and make it a success? I doubt it. We need more than just that to enforce the law, like having a policeman or a city warden to be present with a compound book in hand.
Most importantly, to make the country clean, Malaysians must first change their attitude and mindset.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wants all Malaysians to give up their lebih kurang attitude.
In trying to make Malaysia clean and beautiful, we also need to discard tak kisah (don’t bother). It is almost similar to the tidak apa (couldn’t care less) attitude. If these attitudes and mindset are discarded by all Malaysians, only then can the country be regarded as developed, and not a Third World nation.
To see Malaysia as a clean and beautiful nation is not a far-fetched dream. However, it needs strong will and determination of every single Malaysian. Only then can we live up to the cry of Malaysia Boleh!