A RECENT revelation by the Negri Sembilan administration that eight in 10 billboards motorists see along the North-South Expressway (NSE) stretch running through the state were illegally put up is not only mind- boggling but absolutely appalling.
The fact that hundreds of these massive structures were put up without being endorsed by the authorities along a stretch used by tens of thousands of motorists daily is not only scandalous but surely reeks of corruption.
Also, the fact that they have been up for years and yet escaped scrutiny is both puzzling and disgraceful.
In all, 454 billboards of various sizes and built on both private and government land were found to be unlicensed.
But what was most loathsome was the “tidak apa” attitude of some of the owners who stubbornly refused to legalise these structures despite being given an opportunity to do so.
When the deadline ended on April 15, only 60 had complied.
The fact that the majority have shown a complete disregard to assent tacitly to this is a slap in the face for the authorities who should take the blame for lax enforcement all these years.
How hard would it have been to identify a billboard put up without approval?
All an enforcement officer would need was to see if it displayed the licence or permit number from the local council under whose jurisdiction it came.
Yet, nothing was done and the end result has been years of revenue loss to the state administration while the owners made advertising profits running into thousands of ringgit.
But this time around, the state administration has finally decided to take the bull by its horns and act against such blatant violation of the law.
For a start, it has decided to demolish 75 structures deemed unsafe.
It has also issued 331 compounds to the owners – 326 under the jurisdiction of the Nilai Municipal Council and five under the Rembau district.
But just as it was starting to get tough, it has again caused uneasiness among the public after it decided to give the recalcitrant owners more time to comply.
Why they are being pliant despite the majority of the owners continuing to be nonchalant is anyone’s guess.
The state administration is well aware of an incident along the NSE stretch where a billboard had collapsed on a house not too long ago and it was truly a blessing that there were no injuries or casualties.
The authorities should not only immediately begin the demolition job but they should also go the extra mile by collecting arrears owed for years of unpaid licensing fees.
While this is being done, the personnel in the respective councils under whose jurisdiction the billboards stand should also be probed.
If necessary, disciplinary action must be instituted for what must be considered a serious dereliction of duty.
This also warrants an internal probe as their alleged misconduct has caused the state to lose income.
Those who have been sleeping on the job must be dealt with accordingly to ensure that laws are not mocked in future.
This brings to mind the drastic measure taken by the Indo-nesian government to destroy foreign ships caught fishing illegally in its waters rich with marine life.
Only last month, 51 vessels were sunk as it clamps down on illegal fishing which causes it to lose an estimated US$3bil (RM12.5bil) annually.
Since the initiative was started five years ago, 539 foreign fishing ships, more than half of which are Vietnamese-owned, were “decommissioned” and today, lie at the bottom of the sea.
The local authorities must show that they mean business and start tearing down the illegally put up billboards to send a message to others that such acts would not be tolerated. Ever.