A wheelchair-bound local councillor says that Prasarana's efforts at public consultation were half-hearted and not professional.PETALING JAYA: Those backing the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project appear to have little regard for the disabled, said a wheelchair-bound local councillor.
Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MBPJ) councillor Anthony Thanasayan said the MRT’s proponents were more interested in paying lip service than actual public consultation.
“In any engineering endeavour, the services of professional consultants are required to ensure that what is proposed is (both) fit for the purpose and value for money.
“This is no more apparent than when it comes to the disabled, but these are the people who are significantly left out of any infrastructure so far,” he told FMT.
Thanasayan said the MRT project owner, Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd (Prasarana), had organised a meeting with several disabled people last Thursday.
However, the councillor claimed that he, along with several other disabled activists, were conveniently left out of the loop.
“We forced ourselves to be invited,” he said, adding that the meeting took place at Prasarana’s Bangsar office and was attended by Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) officials as well.
Eventually allowed in, Thanasayan claimed that Prasarana came up with a “very general” presentation on the MRT and failed to touch much on disabled-related topics.
“They spent more than an hour talking about irrelevant things. They showed us a video, but gave us very little exact details,” he said.
Another cause for concern, the councillor added, was the lack of understanding when it came to disabled needs.
Thanasayan said both SPAD and Prasarana were basing their designs on outdated Sirim (Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia) standards.
He claimed that the standards did not favour the disabled, but rather the able-bodied.
(The standards are the MS1184:2002 Code of Practice on Access for Disabled Persons to Public Buildings by Sirim, the Guidelines on Buildings Requirements For Disabled Persons.)
He was also worried that SPAD was following the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) designs, which Thanasayan was directly against.
Thanasayan pointed out that many government agencies did not know how to apply good designs for the disabled, and ended up inconveniencing them.
“Sometimes they put the disabled car parks far from the entrance (of an LRT station). Or they build a normal car park, put a wheelchair sign there and call it a disabled car park,” he said.
Thanasayan also said that Prasarana did not have any disabled people sitting on their technical committees.
“How do they know how (to build facilities) when they don’t use wheelchairs?” he asked.
He said Prasarana and SPAD officials merely nodded when he gave his views, and had neglected to call him and other activists since.
“It felt like they were trying to bulldoze through without going over the finer points, and later run away without being fully responsible,” he added.
‘Big difference with Melewar’
Thanasayan said Prasarana’s efforts at public consultation were half-hearted and not professional.
As a comparison, Thanasayan cited Melewar Integrated Engineering Sdn Bhd, which had prepared the proposal for the failed Penang Monorail project a few years ago.
The councillor said that Melewar had called representatives from “all disabled groups”, and had six meetings with them over the course of eight months.
“We were requested to attend and (help with the) design. Disabled access was covered thoroughly, and we went through equipment and systems specifications,” he said.
At one point, Thanasayan said that Melewar had spent three months discussing specific requirements with the disabled representatives.
“I remember asking one of the Melewar officials: Why are you taking so much time in getting involved with us? He told me that it was the right thing to do, and that it was cost-effective.
“It is one thing to show us a design. There is also the process of visiting the site when they are doing the design. We have to go there a number of times (as well to make sure),” he said.
Originally slated at a price of RM36.6 billion, the MRT had been estimated to cost at least RM53 billion. It is Malaysia’s largest infrastructure project to date.
Four lines are scheduled to be built, with the first Sungai Buloh-Kajang line expected to be completed by 2016.
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