Monday, September 18, 2017

BARU BIAN: BUILDING JIWA MURNI ROADS PENNY WISE POUND FOOLISH


PRESS STATEMENT
9 SEPTEMBER 2017

I refer to DCM James Masing’s statement in the Malaysian Insight on 7 September that the government will stick to providing Jiwa Murni standard roads despite their poor quality and short durability. Frankly, I am surprised that he would make such a decision as the roads can only be used for a short period of time before they disintegrate and become reduced to muddy trenches, which are impassable by ordinary cars. Even off-road vehicles often get bogged down in the mud, as evidenced by the many pictures published by the papers in recent years.

DCM Masing said that what is important to the state government is to make as many rural villages accessible as possible in the shortest possible time and to create connectivity. Take for example the Long Luping-Ba’ Kelalan stretch – it was built for RM57mil as a Jiwa Murni project some time ago but it is now as good as having no road.

It is not accurate to say that the damage is done by heavily laden vehicles such as timber trucks. There are no heavy vehicles using some of the roads in Ba’ Kelalan, but they have also deteriorated to appalling conditions nevertheless.

The Auditor General’s report 2016 heavily criticised the Jiwa Murni roads, and I quoted part of the report in DUN in June last year:

Quality of work was less satisfactory. Road shoulders and drains were not built… There were potholes, uneven and muddy road surfaces. Road maintenance was less satisfactory... Besides faded road lines, there were untrimmed wild plants and grasses along road shoulders… safety of the roads built were “less satisfactory” as they were steep and winding, with “no slope protection.”

DCM James Masing in his response defended the Jiwa Murni projects by saying the Auditor General had found in their 3-month audit that the roads in Kapit, Miri and Limbang had met the objectives in providing road connectivity and reducing travel time. If they had extended their audit to Lawas/Ba’ Kelalan, they would have seen, in addition to their findings of the badly built roads and unsatisfactory safety aspects, that the conditions of the roads or muddy tracks meant that connectivity was as good as lost, and that the Jiwa Murni roads are not a cost effective way of providing road connectivity.

Given that the Jiwa Murni roads have not lasted very long, it would appear that the government has been penny wise but pound foolish in the decision to allow the roads to be built in this manner by the Army. Once the roads are handed over, JKR is responsible for the maintenance but we are constantly being told that there are limited or no funds for repairs. This is what Minister Michael Manyin said in December 2015 in the DUN: ‘… there is no real allocation given to us from the Federal Government…’ DCM James Masing said the same thing, as reported in the Malaysian Insight, ie he ‘said the Ba’ Kelalan road would be repaired but did not say when as the road is federally funded.’

It is obvious to all that once the JWP roads become impassable mud tracks and with no repairs forthcoming, the objectives of the government have failed. I am glad that YB Dennis Ngau agrees with my views on the roads. In the case of the Long Luping –Ba’ Kelalan road, if the government and timber company can build it to a R1 road for RM36 mil (as reported in the press in July 2017), that would better serve the people of the area. Sadly, it appears that the government is determined to keep providing cheap substandard roads that do not meet the needs of the people. DCM James Masing should make a trip to personally inspect the roads in Ba’ Kelalan – and see for himself the ‘connectivity’ that is as good as non-existent.

Baru Bian
ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan


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