As authorities were taking too long to fix potholes on roads, a Malaysian grassroots group called Ikatan Silaturahim Brotherhood decided to take matters into their own hands.
The group, which was formed in 2007 by local actor Lando Zawawi, consists of volunteers and they use their own funds to fix potholes in Malaysia and help raise awareness about road issues.
“We are here just for one thing: To make sure the roads are safer. I’m a taxpayer, these guys are taxpayers, we don’t need to do this.
“We can just go home and sleep now, but we still have to do it because a lot of people die because of potholes. So that’s why we are here, and we don’t expect anything in return at all,” said Mr Lando in a report by Malaysian news site The Star.
Potholes issue in Malaysia has been a long-standing one and many lives have been claimed over the years due to poorly maintained roads.
Just last month (23 December), Malaysia’s Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin suffered minor injuries after falling off his bicycle as it hit a pothole in Banting, Selangor state.
The minister tweeted a picture of his bruised face and a pothole on a road, and captioned it: “Pothole, ditch, Kj. 2020 keep giving”.
Following his tweet, Kuala Langat district’s Public Works Department, which is in charge of the roads in Banting, apologised to Mr Khairy.
“Kuala Langat JKR apologises for the incident that befell the minister, will take immediate action over the issue and pray for YB’s speedy recovery,” it said.
The Department’s apology promoted other politicians and members of the public to question the double standard implied here as many other civilians have been injured or lost their lives due to potholes in Malaysia.
To make it worse, two more casualties were reported last week, with just one day apart, highlighting the seriousness of pothole issues in Malaysia.
In the report by The Star, some of the volunteers of group were victims of potholes accidents themselves.
One such volunteer said that he lost a leg in an accident happened in 2012 after he was hit by a car as it tried to avoid a pothole.
“I joined The Brotherhood because I want to help the road users who do not know how the system works. I want the authorities to pay attention to this issue so that no one else will share the fate as mine,” the volunteer said.
The group has 54 teams and about 10,500 members nationawide.
The Star also revealed that volunteers from this group conducts repair works almost every night at different states across the country, using their own tools and cold mix of asphalt and bitumen membranes to ensure the roads are safe for the public to use.
“Right now we are using our cold mix because our cold mix can be used in rain, but not under a heavypour. A drizzle like this is fine,” the actor said.
He added, “We have the cold mix underneath, bitumen membrane and this is bauxite… So it looks good on the road too.”
When asked on the cost to fix a pothole as big as 2 ft, Mr Lando said it will roughly cost the group RM100. “For a hole as big as this one, maybe around RM20 and the bitumen patch is around RM70. So all together this is RM100. But it has been here for like four to five months,” he explained.
Mr Lando also said that he hopes the group’s efforts will push the authorities to be more efficient in fixing the road conditions in the country, adding that the group have patched thousands of potholes since its establishment.
“Sometimes I don’t get a good rest because every day I get five to 10 reports of road hazards, (such as) people falling off their bicycles and motorcycles, road accidents and all. So I really hope the authorities realise this and take some kind of action please. I can’t do this forever,” Mr Lando stated.
He also urged the public to lodge written complaints and not just verbal ones.
Malaysia’s Works Ministry said in a statement on 30 December last year that it will carry out pothole repairs within 24 hours after a complaint is made. This is part of the Ministry’s “Aku Janji Zero Potholes” campaign that was reintroduced last July.
The Ministry said that the previous campaign happened from 2016 to 2018 with the aim to strengthen its commitment towards the maintenance of the roads in Malaysia.
“Under this campaign, pothole repairs will be done within 24 hours of its discovery or complaints and in three days for permanent repairs as stated in the Federal Road Maintenance contract,” the statement read.
It added, “A total of 4,091 public infrastructure complaints were received by the ministry and PWD till November 30. From the total, 1,473 complaints were regarding damaged roads. All complaints have been processed and action has been taken by JKR.”
“Almost 200,000 potholes were found and repaired through monitoring and patrols by PWD in 2019 while 64,000 potholes were recorded with action taken as of last June.”