ALMOST every township in major cities faces one common problem besides potholes – illegal advertisements.
These can be in the form of stickers, banners, bunting and leaflets found in every corner, at every junction, on every tree, on almost every street lamp-posts.
Traffic lights, road signage, shop shutter rails, post boxes and even waste chamber doors are not spared by these “hard-working and untiring” agents of destruction, under the guise of advertising.
The poor trees bear the brunt of this with long sharp nails piercing their trunks to hold up these banners left by unscrupulous parties.
While I admonish the acts of these unscrupulous agents, the local authorities, police and even the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) seem rather reluctant to act and choos to ignore the situation instead.
Do we need to amend the laws to meet the challenge posed by these illegal advertisements?
Our public utilities are being disfigured by the selfish act of a few who are out to make a quick buck.
What is the role played by concerned stakeholders such as the residents’ associations, Rukun Tetangga, the Housing and Local Government Ministry, the local authorities and even the police?
Without addressing the issue head-on, we will not get anywhere.
It is pointless to organise daily gotong-royong sessions to remove the illegal adverts without addressing the root cause of the issue.
The Housing and Local Government Ministry must set up a task force to address the matter and all the critical stakeholders must look at the issue seriously.
If neccesary, new laws must be drafted with the help of the Attorney-General’s Chambers to curb this public nuisance.
As many of the adverts are put up only after midnight, the local authorities must work closely with residents’ associations and Rukun Tetangga teams to empower them to make citizen’s arrest with the support of the police.
The residents’ associations can also set up a hotline to the nearest police station and instruct their security guards to alert the hotline as and when required to nab these culprits.
If this is carried out diligently, we will see a significant drop in illegal advertisements.
Every tree damaged by these culprits with a nail must see the culprits punished with a stiffer sentence.
The local authorities must also review the licensing and applications of the banners, bunting and posters.
It can be an extremely tiring experience, where you must first get the application form from the nearest local authority, fill in the lengthy form with several details, then submit it to the local authority with the appropriate payment.
Those who want to put up the banners legally must also provide a refundable deposit which they then must claim back from the local authority once the licence expires.
I suggest that this procedure be reviewed and shortened to allow online applications, thus encouraging small and medium business operators to apply from the comfort of their offices.
This will encourage more genuine entrepreneurs to benefit by applying and following the rules in an orderly manner.
SME Corporation Malaysia has a role to play in this matter, as it is the custodian of the small and medium-sized business.
It should have regular dialogues with the local authorities and the ministry to address these issues.
The local authorities must also work to place appropriate facilities to encourage entrepreneurs to put up advertisements in an orderly and professional manner.
Even traffic light junctions can be designed to mitigate this problem. The facility can be managed by the local authority or the residents’ association.
The Housing and Local Government Ministry could also devise an incentive mechanism for the public for every report they make on illegal advertisements and for every culprit caught red-handed.
There is a dire need for new tools such as an appropriate mobile application to facilitate reporting to either local authorities, multimedia commission or a common hotline managed by the ministry.
All public facilities such as bus stops, road signs, junction boxes and walls must be repainted with non-stick paint to prevent illegal advertisements from being placed there.
Frequent neighbourhood clean-up campaigns should also be organised to remove the existing illegal advertisements.
Once a new law is gazetted, MCMC must trace all phone numbers advertised to nab the culprits and charge them in court.
These culprits should also be named and shamed in the media.
The issue is not something that we can solve in a jiffy.
It takes willpower, legal power and concerted agency power to stop these untoward acts that are hampering our nation’s image and overall well-being.