Reaching out to the people


Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir is a busy man. Ever since he took office as menteri besar in 2009, he has been on a roll to improve the government’s delivery system. His ‘permukiman’ programme, especially, has been touted his crowning glory.

When met during the final leg of the programme for Perak Tengah last Friday, Zambry shared his mission to meet the people’s expectations. This is the first of a two-part series of the interview:

Question: It seems that you have lost considerable weight after the “permukiman” programme began.

Answer: (Laughs) Well, that is subject to interpretation, though. I do a lot of exercises (as part of community programmes) with the people. I have been doing that for many, many years.

Although I have a busy schedule, I get involved in activities whenever I go down to meet the people.

Part of the activities is to engage with young. At home, whenever I have the time (I will exercise). But every week, I will make sure (I would exercise) to maintain my fitness level.

Q: Can you tell us about the uniqueness of the “permukiman” programme?

A: There are various unique factors in the programme. Firstly, the leaders are there together with the people. And, it is not just lip service.

We can always say the leaders are with the people, but in this programme, we are really on the ground with the people. The leaders are really, really on the ground.

Secondly, when the menteri besar comes down, the state machinery will be there and this inspires or compels them to work and solve the people’s problems.

Thirdly, we can immediately address problems and find solutions for them.

Fourthly, we can understand the the people better.

And, lastly, it impacts on the integrity of the government.

Q: How did the “permukiman”progamme come into being?

A: It was in 2009 when we realised the situation at that time required full engagement with the people.

We needed to regain the confidence of the people. Therefore, we came up with lots of programmes.

One of them was for us to go down to the ground, which after some time, was coined as “3P ” or 3Fs”, which stands for “Field, Feelings (sentiment of the people) and Fix”.

We have done this through trial and error and gauge what the people want and expect from the government.

This is not something new. It has been going on for more than five years.

The programme began gaining momentum after the 13th General Election. We decided to keep it going, and not just when election fever hits.

Q: We were told that you have a specific unit which handles onthe-ground activities. It must be the busiest unit in your office.

A: Yes, it is. Because I do not want us to just visit the constituents, gather feedback, and do nothing to address them.

The unit is also responsible for monitoring (the implementation of) solutions, too. Some can be executed immediately, while others can take months. We need a long-term approach and to keep monitoring.

The unit is also the coordinator between the departments in the state.

Q: You first initiated “Klinik Dr Zambry ” before the “permukiman” programme was formed.

People were queuing up to meet you to address their woes, which would then be resolved immediately. What did you learn from the experience?

A: I began to understand the problems on the ground and pose pertinent questions to my officials.

The issues back then centred on the delivery system, which needed revision.

We gained a lot of input and came up with new programmes to settle the issues once and for all. Problems will be always there, but we are employing a proactive approach to engage the people directly, going to the ground by lending our ears and to find solutions.

Like today, there were issues that had baffled us for many years. Why can’t they be resolved? But upon meeting the people, I realised that it required a lot of thinking, as well as creative solutions.

You cannot just be guided by procedures, which you have to comply strictly without any flexibility.

Q: Any example of issues that initially seemed to be too complex to resolve?

A: The issue of floods in (certain) villages. The Works Department (JKR) said it was not under its jurisdiction. The Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) said it was not theirs either, which posed the question of no man’s land.

I kept reminding them that we were here to solve the problem. We sat down and I mediated if there was any departmental conflict (in jurisdiction) between the two and we found a solution.

The other is the cost to solve the problem. Which, actually, if you use creative thinking, you don’t need a lot of money to find the solution.

Like yesterday (last Friday), there was a problem concerning a culvert in Kampung Simpang Tiga.

(The villagers wanted to upgrade the culvert, but JKR and DID said the cost could be high to build a diversion to transport vehicles).

The residents needed a bigger culvert, and the cost was said to be RM1 million. I said: “Why do you need RM1 million? How much do the culverts actually cost?”

They (JKR and DID) said the culverts were not costly, but the road diversion works were.

Q: So, how did you address the situation?

A: I told them: “Look, let us think about it. The main thing is not about the road diversion, which they have to put in place while installing the culvert. It (the road) is not even long — only about 10m.

So, you don’t really need RM500,000 to build the road diversion.

The cost for the culvert is probably RM200,000. So, the main issue is about the culvert, and the road diversion is secondary. Let’s think about prioritising issues in providing solutions.”

Finally after discussions, (I told them that they) do not need to spend that much on diversion... (Yes) you still need the diversion but you don’t really have to cover it nicely with tar. Probably, you only need to keep it for three to four months. And, they finally agreed that the cost could be less.

Q:Q: What are the specific issues usually raised by the people?

A: It depends on the area. If it is in Kerian and some parts in Larut, most of the issues involved roads and irrigation systems, as well as flooding.

There are also land issues to be resolved, such as allotting lands for the younger generation for housing, and application for (housing), which, I do not know why, is being kept in the processing (period) for quite some time.

I listened to the grouses and told (my people) the issues needed to be solved immediately, and that there are various approaches we could use.

Q: During the “permukiman” programme, we do not see any promotion that it was part of Barisan Nasional or Umno.

A: That is because we do not want to portray it as political party effort.

We want to carry out a people-oriented programme. It is not because we are not confident of our party. The people know that the (Perak) government is under Barisan Nasional. But, we have to tell them that this is a programme for all.

Part 2 of interview tomorrow