By Wendy John
SIBU, Jan 6: The full enforcement of the no smoking ban on January 1 in all food outlets nationwide had resulted in an inadvertent environmental setback for Sibu Municipal Council (SMC).
Speaking at the council’s annual dinner last night, its chairman Clarence Ting revealed that the ban had resulted in greater indiscriminate littering of cigarette butts, which has become a cause for concern.
“I support this ban, but the council is faced with a new challenge of cigarette butt littering. As of today, I can see the situation has gotten from bad to worse,” he said.
Ting added that they would have to address this issue urgently otherwise “my plan for a cleaner Sibu will suffer a setback this year.”
With the full implementation of the ban, eating outlets no longer provide ashtray for smokers. This has resulted in smokers who are required to puff at least three metres away from the said premises to blatantly throw their cigarette butts on the road.
The butts can even be seen undernearth the chairs in eating outlets, including along five-foot way.
A random check suggests this cigarette butt littering happens at night as there is no enforcement.
Council street sweepers could also be seen cleaning up cigarette butts from the middle of roads.
In reply to a question as to whether the council would use CCTV to catch the culprits, Ting said it was not easy to do so as there are too many areas to monitor.
He said the anti-smoking drive is under the Health Department.
“Council and MLGH (Ministry of Local Government and Housing) have yet to decide on the course of action. So we are waiting for the state government to put in place the anti-smoking by-law for councils,” he added.
Earlier, Ting highlighted several initiatives which the council would be implementing this year as it aspired to be a people-oriented authority by 2021
“In order to achieve this ambitious goal, we as councillors and staff need to be on the ground, in other words “Turun Padang”, in the area that we serve. In doing so, we get to know what the people’s problems, the people’s needs and the people’s wishes are,”he said.
Since taking office as its chairman, he said he had taken the initiative to be on the ground as much as possible to lead by example.
He emphasised that the council would continue to address existing issues like sinking drains and bumpy roads in the year 2020.
He wanted developers to improve their quality of delivery and not to burden the council with substandard works so that council could increase allocations for other matters like building more parks and organising more activities during the year.
Concerning public health issues, Ting said the council had taken action to get rid of dogs in public areas following increasing complaints from the public on dogs roaming the streets.
“In vector control, we remain vigilant in preventing dengue outbreaks, and continue to monitor the dengue prone areas closely,” he said.
Starting January 1, SMC has banned the use of plastic straws in all food outlets, making it the first council in the state to implement this move.
On the parking shortage in the CBD area, Ting said he would continue to push for it which includes using existing open spaces to build multi-storey car parks.
For the markets and tamu, SMC is facing challenges to accommodate more traders from nearby towns, particularly at the central market, Ting noted.
As the task of awarding licences to deserving applicants is the biggest challenge, the council would have to make room for them by weeding out those who has abused the system.
“SMC will continue to organise events in the new year and will continue to work with organisations to make the town area more vibrant. I have requested the CBD to be brighten up so it won’t be so dark after hours to encourage more residents to come to the CBD area,” he added.
For this coming Lunar New Year, the council is working with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Junior Chamber International (JCI) to set up new year markets to enhance the festive mood in Sibu.
Ting also revealed the first SMC-organised event for 2020 will be the Sanyan tower run.
Meanwhile, the Borneo Cultural Festival is scheduled for July, and any surplus proceeds would be given to the needy.
Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian officiated at the event which was attended by over 500 council staff. — DayakDaily