While preventive measures against mosquito-borne diseases have become top priority in Klang Valley neighbourhoods, there are still some residents with a lackadaisical attitude.
“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” This quote by renowned conservationist Dr Jane Goodall points out the negative effects of apathy.
With the threat from Aedes mosquitoes greater today than ever, in the form of dengue and Zika, Malaysians cannot afford to be lackadaisical when it comes to keeping their surroundings clean.
This apathetic attitude often frustrates residents associations (RA) that organise joint clean-ups in their neighbourhoods.
At a recent site visit with Kajang Municipal Council officers, Taman Sri Bahagia Residents Association president Pat Wong expressed her hope for residents to do their part in keeping the housing area clean.
“It is always mostly just committee members and their family members taking part in the gotong-royong. We need all the residents to pitch in,” she said, adding that there were about 500 houses in the neighbourhood.
As a Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) residents committee (JKP) member for Zone 3, USJ11/3 RA vice-president Singam Muniandy also takes part in gotong-royong activities in other neighbourhoods aside from his, almost every week.
He noticed that it was usually the JKP, RA or Rukun Tetangga members or the same residents taking part.
“Some give the excuse that Sunday is the only time they get to spend with their family, but this is actually a good way to spend family time. It can be a good education process for their children.
“Some residents say it is the local council’s job to keep the streets, drains and fields clean.
“We are not expecting everyone to turn up for every gotong-royong but we hope to see more than the usual few,” he said.
USJ3/4 Rukun Tetangga (RT) chairman and Zone 3 JKP member Tan Yeng Yap said people tended to take things for granted after they read about a reduction in dengue cases.
“It is difficult to get people to help out. If everyone helps, the job can be done in half an hour instead of a few people spending half a day to clean up the neighbourhood.
“We now require at least 20 or 30 people to commit before organising a gotong-royong,” he said.
JKP secretary and PJS 9 RT deputy chairman Mohd Noor Ahmad recalled a recent gotong-royong session where there were more non-residents taking part.
“There were 65 employees from a company in their corporate social responsibility programme and only 15 residents who took part; in the next day’s session, more than 100 members from the Dream Village Football Academy participated and only 20 residents.
“It is very disheartening but if we were to give up, who else will do it?”
He suggested that the local council be present during the clean-up to issue summons to those found to have mosquito larvae in their premises.
“It is worse when some residents fence up their back lanes and do not open it for the area to be cleaned during the gotong-royong,” added Mohd Noor.
Batu 4 Village Development and Security Committee member Murthy Subramaniam from Kapar, who heads the gotong-royong unit, also lamented the lack of participation from villagers in the clean-ups.
“We had banners and distributed pamphlets but only a few turned up,” he said.
Kota Raja MCA Wanita chief Jackie Chew Soo Mee said it was important to have assistance from the local councils when residents organised a gotong-royong.
“They have the necessary tools for cleaning, especially to unclog drains.
“We had positive support from residents at a recent gotong-royong we organised; the key is to have ample publicity, have a clear objective and organise it well,” she said.
Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh feels that the inclusion of the youth is important.
“Most of the JKP members are seniors or retirees who have more time to serve the community
“But the young must come out and be part of this stakeholders engagement, which is lacking at this point,” she said.
She said while some viewed Subang Jaya as their retirement place, many young families moved there for its vibrant features.
“The voice of the next generation is not heard in the decision-making process and this is dangerous because the young may have a different set of ideas for a township like Subang Jaya.
“Do not just tweet and comment on Facebook, they need to take part in public forums,” she said.
Yeoh also highlighted the lack of participation from the business community.
“There may be one or two active spokesmen but not an active community,” she said.
She suggested gotong-royong be held on Saturday evenings instead, if people were unwilling to spare their Sunday mornings.
“The JKPs can work with student groups such as the Leo Clubs.
Sunway Student Volunteers Club was among those who helped out in the PJS 9 clean-up.
Club director Low Kin Jin said the club aimed to make an impact on their community and environment.