MANY foreign visitors to Malaysia have nice things to say about the country except they are appalled at our public toilets and those in shops and eateries.
Despite all the campaigns for clean toilets we do not seem to have achieved much and the subject of poor toilet culture is far too obvious.
Audit findings by the Local Government Department indicate that the majority of public toilets audited were found to be unsatisfactory.
One only has to use our public toilets to realise how filthy they are. Even toilets in shopping complexes are not clean and odourless despite the fact that public has to pay for use of the facility. Toilets in most eating establishments and restaurants are not clean either.
Food operators will find ways to improve the quality of their food but not of the toilets.
It all boils down to a question of maintenance, usage and of course the culture of cleanliness.
Even the public toilets along our expressways, except those along the North-South Expressway, are generally poor and there is a lot of room for improvement.
On the one hand there is the problem of poor maintenance. Then there is also the issue of the users who have not learnt how to use toilets properly. There is also the problem of vandalism.
Due to lack of maintenance some of the toilet door locks are not functioning and even hooks/hangers inside the cubicles are missing.
It is high time for the public to be educated on how to use toilets in a proper manner. There is also the need to instil a culture of cleanliness.
In short, we need a toilet revolution where we can do something about keeping our toilets clean at all times.
We need to revolutionise our thinking about the subject of toilets. We must not have the idea that toilets are meant to be dirty and so we need not do anything about it.
On the contrary we must accept the fact that we can keep our toilets clean all the time.
We are good at developing projects and providing state-of-the-art buildings and equipment. But we are often found wanting when it comes to maintaining them and making them function properly.
In the course of my work, I travel all over Malaysia and many a time I have visited community halls to participate in meetings or seminars only to find that the facilities there are in a deplorable state, particularly the toilets.
Toilets are not only the issue. What about our roadside drains, roads and back lanes, public parks, bus and taxi stations where maintenance and safety are often neglected?
It is time for everyone, the local authorities, government agencies, the private sector and every Malaysian to examine their shortcomings in the area of safety, service and maintenance and do something about it.
Maintenance and service have never been the country’s forte although Malaysia is publicly known as a developing country with world-class infrastructure.
Ensuring that Malaysia becomes a first world country with first world infrastructure also necessitates world-class service and maintenance.
Improving the country’s image is not only the responsibility of the authorities, building owners and the service industry, it is also the duty of every citizen.
We have to be more civic-minded and show exemplary conduct. We must use public amenities responsibly, not litter and be more civic conscious as well as care for the environment.
All these good habits should be instilled and nurtured from a young age.
In this regard parents are good role models for their children while the schools have to take steps to ensure that what is taught about noble values must be put into practice.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE