By Abdul Rahmat Omar
“Anak emak bersemangat dah nak ke sekolah tapi kena harungi jambatan yang canggih ini. Dah setahun tak ada perubahan langsung. Jambatan gantung di Pamah Aur, Bukit Betong, Kuala Lipis,” wrote Siti Zaharah Othman as the caption of the video she took of her husband Abdul Jalil Sulaiman, leading their five-year old son Lutfil Hadi, across a dangerously broken bridge to attend pre-school.
This video collected 1.2 million views and 33,000 shares within eight hours of being posted, with many venting their anger at the government for their inaction over the matter.
Jalil said that this was the only way to send his son to school as it takes 10 minutes to get to the other side of the river versus 40 minutes by road, which is now being submerged by flood waters.
This was refuted by the local assemblyman Datuk Seri Wan Rosdy Wan Ismail who said that the JKKK provides boats for people to cross the submerged road.
Wan Rosdy also clarified that the construction of the new bridge is to commence on Jan 8 2018. The Department of Works had already allocated a sum of RM462,414.40 on the Dec 12 2017 but had to wait for better weather before construction can be commenced.
In a reply to comments, Siti Zaharah said that it has been a year that her husband has had to use the broken bridge to get to work, but critics pointed out that the family owns a Proton Exora, a compact 1.6L MPV.
The husband could have driven the son to the point where the JKKK provides boats for people to cross over to the other side. And as the flooding only recently occurred, Jalil could have driven himself to work instead of using the broken bridge to cross the river.
It is not that both Jalil and Siti Zaharah were desperate enough and left without any option, they blatantly endangered the life of their five-year old son.
To top that off, Siti Zaharah brazenly mislead the public that that was the only option her family had.
Siti Zaharah has since apologised to the assemblyman but never offered any explanation to the public for her behaviour.
In my opinion, the Ministry for Women, Family and Community Development ought to take legal action against both Jalil and Siti Zaharah under Section 31(1)(a) of the Child Act, 2001 for knowingly exposing the child in a manner likely to cause him physical injury or even death, by using the broken bridge when there is an alternative route with the means to take the route.
But as usual, as in the case of the use of children for begging by “religious schools”, or bringing children to street protests, not one authority seems to care and enforcement of the Child Act would be a bonanza if any action is actually taken.
If it does happen, I would think that many would run to the nearest Magnum or Da Ma Cai outlet and spend their savings there.