PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is driving a Proton X70 sport utility vehicle (SUV) when he sees a highway toll booth in front of him.
“Alamak, tol la pulak (Oops, there is a toll),” the Prime Minister says.
“Proton! Activate the flying mode,” he orders the SUV via voice command.
The Proton X70 flies over the highway toll.
It is one of the many memes popping up after Entrepreneur Development Minister Datuk Seri Redzuan Md Yusof announced on Feb 26 that Malaysia’s first-ever flying car – driven by local technology – is expected to be unveiled this year.
A prototype of the car already exists, said the minister.
The car, which cost about RM1mil, would be safe and capable of flying at low altitude at a reasonable speed, he said.
Many Malaysians thought the idea was ridiculous. Some on social media posted that the Pakatan Harapan government should solve the public transport problem first instead of inventing a flying car.
@yongtl, who is former Sabah chief minister Datuk Yong Teck Lee, sarcastically tweeted: “Malaysia’s flying car is Sabah’s solution to the Sandakan-Telupid Road!”
The Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president linked it to an AFP wire service story with the headline “Government’s flying car plan jets into controversy”.
The AFP story reported: “For many people, the flying car project was just another hare-brained scheme cooked up by foolish politicians.”
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) are in their respective fast cars in a scene in Furious 7.
“Boss, let’s test our car in Sandakan,” Brian tells Dominic in Sabah slang, referring to the Telupid-Sandakan road in the east coast of Sabah.
Six scenes later, Brian, driving fast and furious, sees a pothole-riddled road.
“Astaga!! Jalan apa ni!! (Oh My God!! What kind of road is this!!),” he says.
Brian’s white-coloured Toyota Supra hits a pothole and he is injured in an accident.
It is one of the many memes, using scenes from the Fast and Furious movie franchise about fast cars, to poke fun of the main road connecting Sabah’s east coast and west coast.
It is a road that gave birth to the phrase ayam Telupid (Telupid chicken), claimed Kinabatangan MP Datuk Bung Moktar Radin in an interview in 2012.
“The Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan road was jahat (filled with potholes) and when motorists stopped at Telupid town, the chicken there was not tasty bah,” he told me.
I’ve driven on that “ayam Telupid” road. It is a death trap.
For decades, there are permanent signboards along the road warning of potholes.
The fact that there are permanent signboards means that the potholes are permanent.
Around Christmas, the Sabah government promised to fix the Telupid-Sandakan road before the start of the Year of the Pig.
On the eve of Chinese New Year, a 33-year-old man lost his right arm after his 4WD, heading to Sandakan, collided with a truck at Km66 of the Beluran-Telupid road.
The horrific accident was politicised.
The opposition blamed the accident on the state government’s failure to fulfil its promise.
Perhaps, Malaysians in Sabah should not complain too much about the potholes along the Telupid-Sandakan road. At least it is a sealed road.
There are many villages in remote Sabah where villagers are cut off from the rest of the world because there’s no road connection.
Yesterday on Facebook, I saw a photograph of schoolchildren wading through a shallow river and walking for one hour to get an education in the interior of my state.
Compare that to my five-minute drive to send my Year Five kid to her primary school in Subang Jaya, Selangor.
The only thing that I complain about the drive is the traffic jam near her school just as the bell is about to ring.
My daughter’s school is made of concrete. There are wooden schools in Sabah and Sarawak without walls, electricity or piped water.
It is not only the rural poor who desperately need basic infrastructure. The urban poor in Kuala Lumpur also need it.
On Twitter, I read a thread by @hnnbmdhj (Nana) about a 67-year-old woman working in a fast food restaurant along the Sungai Besi highway.
There’s no public transport connecting her workplace to her house. She has to walk for two hours a day to and from her house. When she’s tired, she tries to hitch a ride.
Nana told a touching story about how the aunty asked if she was heading in the same direction as her home.
Although she was not, the kind-hearted twitterer, who describes herself as an egalitarian “into the idea of making the world a better place”, gave her a ride.
“She lives alone, has no kids, husband passed away, she has been working there for 10 years. Previously she cycled to work but is traumatised after being hit twice by a motorcycle,” tweeted Nana.
Probably, furthest from the auntie’s mind is a flying car. What she needs is a dependable and affordable public transport from her home to her workplace.
The flying car is an exciting possibility. But our ministers should descend to grounded reality.
We don’t live in Wakanda. The government has to provide basic infrastructure first.
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