Friday, February 17, 2006

Pothole Patcher in Johor Bahru

Odd-job worker, he likes to be called, Panjang, has become a folk hero of sorts in this city for his determination to cover every pothole he sees,

Well-wishers gave him cement to help in his patchwork. The 64-year-old man also received food and two bicycles to help him move about.

Panjang, said he came from a wealthy family in Penang. He said he was a businessman once and had worked in Singapore for almost 25 years. “My uncle, who died some time ago, inspired me to do good for others,” he said. Panjang, wearing a tattered T-shirt and pants, also makes a living selling Chinese health magazines. He speaks fluent English.

Last month, The Star reported that Panjang, who declined to disclose his real name, had taken it upon himself to cover potholes wherever he found them as they were posing danger in the streets. Once while he was patching a hole along busy Jalan Maju, a motorist knocked into his bicycle that he had parked behind a car.

Panjang, who claimed to have started his crusade against potholes two years ago, had risked his life many times covering holes in the middle of the road without proper warning signs. He said he has done odd jobs that allowed him to know the right mixture of sand and cement to use in sealing potholes. He could not tell how many potholes he had sealed so far but said: “I have patched up many potholes around Jalan Maju, Jalan Serampang and Jalan Perang.”

With hands full of scars and a set of stained teeth, Panjang said while some people had warmed up to him, some continued to ridicule and throw insults at him. “This will not deter me from carrying out my task and I am more determined,” he said, adding that he never asked for anything in return for his service.

The Johor Bahru authorities stand aside and watch him do those works which are relatively dangerous and he is not assisted by any flagman or signages.

Aren't the authorities failing in their duties such that an old man would have to go round the town patching up potholes?

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