Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir joining the Ipoh City Council’s general workers on garbage collection rounds on Feb 2. Zambry wants Ipoh to regain its status as the cleanest city in the country.

The news of my unannounced presence among the Ipoh City Council’s general workers during their garbage collection routine on Feb 2 was never expected to gain such a phenomenal response from the public. Nevertheless, after it was reported widely in the print media, broadcast on national television and nearly broke the social medium, it became the talk of the town.

I received reports that my official Facebook posting alone generated 524,000 reads, with more than 8,000 likes and shared by 1,600 Netizens. Several newspapers have debated my feat from widely different perspectives. At no small impact, the opposition, particularly DAP, came out on the same day dismissing the move to join hardworking common folks as a cheap publicity stunt. This, of course, came from none other than the two cousins, Nga Kor Ming and Ngeh Khoo Ham.

My lending a hand to keep the city clean had spurred a tremendous response from the public, but the state DAP leadership appeared to have ignored that and denounced the move as a farce. The general public was also floored when they read the negative statements from Nga, Ngeh and some of their colleagues. They appeared to have lost their bearings, the way they were going on with their rebukes and recriminations.

I am reminded of a quote from one of the many responses: “MB, when the two cousins started whacking you, it shows that you are doing something right.” Well and good, but I cannot sit and accept that all is rainbows and sunshine, either.

I believe that it is only fair for me to enlighten the sceptical “watchdogs” that this kind of act is in fact not the first of its kind. Ever since I took the helm in 2009, my team and I have gone to the ground many times, to check on the cleanliness in Ipoh and see what needs to be improved. Sometimes, we would specifically inspect the level of cleanliness of a particular area or building or flats; often, I do it quietly, such as during my physical training and cycling sessions.

Some may remember how I swept the stretch of road along the Ipoh Railway building; my night walks inspecting the Kinta riverside and checking the public toilets. Some of these were reported, some were not. It just so happens that this time around, the matter was publicised.

Clearly, my endeavours have led to debates and sprouted polemics as to what my intention was. Some people quipped that, at least, I didn’t give a broom to the workers to do their cleaning. My action was even sceptically reviewed and commented on by a well-known journalist, an individual I have known personally for many years.

For those in the know, my message has always been and will always be the same. I have said it before and I am saying it now. Probably not many are aware of the focus areas that I laid out in my recent New Year executive talk.

I fielded 12 main points to be given special focus. One of them is cleanliness. I specifically mentioned and set a target to improve garbage collection in urban and rural areas in Perak, as well as further inculcating a clean public toilet culture among our citizens. I have to lead by example to jump-start 2017’s to-do list — hence, donning the orange T-shirt and “getting down and dirty” on Feb 2.

My action should be welcomed and reciprocally followed by every citizen, in particular those who are in a position to keep our city, towns, villages and homes clean.

I shall be watching, too, for the 12 key points to be carried out in the best interest of the rakyat. The key performance indicators set out may be deemed small by some, but to the rakyat, issues like patched potholes, hygienic public toilets, properly maintained street-lamps, timely garbage collection, unclogged drains and well-maintained grass areas are a requisite.

It is an obligation that we, as leaders, must fulfil; after all, the rakyat are our ratepayers and they expect it of us. We must make our service worth the people’s money.

The city of Ipoh has been represented by the opposition for as long as one can remember. The city folks have been complaining about the declining standard of cleanliness and beauty. People keep reminiscing about the days when Ipoh was the cleanest city in the country.

I am trying my best to bring back those beautiful days, and I am confounded that such efforts to encourage good habits are admonished by the very people who represent these city folk.

To improve a city, one cannot ignore the importance of cleanliness. It is not a seasonal affair to keep a city clean. I may have chosen Ipoh as the first ground to touch base, but I hope it would create a chain reaction that would enthuse the whole state to follow suit.

I welcome all efforts to continuously keep our space clean, tidy and beautiful. Ultimately, we will regain our title as the cleanest city in Malaysia. I believe we can accomplish this goal — every citizen must extend a helping hand, even more so its chief executive.

Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir is Perak menteri besar

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