Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Malaysia Boleh Part II

Remember six months ago there was this big story about a collapsing stadium? Newspapers carried the story about a stadium roof in Gong Badak, Kuala Terengganu that crumpled in June, a year after it was officially opened by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin. It seemed that the iron frame structure supporting the 300 meter-long roof destabilized, causing the roof on the RM300 million stadium’s left wing to collapse. It is a real royal travesty because the stadium was named after the King. I guess in this case, no one dared to laugh. Still, if anybody is to feel really embarrassed, it will be our King.

I also remembered reading that soon after, the Public Accounts Committee launched a probe into the roof collapse at Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium, and its deputy chairman Dr Tan Seng Giaw said tongue-in-cheek, “…I have never heard of a stadium collapsing on its own until now”. Sorry, I cannot help it but I am chortling now.

Then one month later, in July of this year, the Public Works Department closed the RM18 million Batu Burok Aquatic Complex (also in Kuala Terengganu) as it was declared unsafe after only a year in operation. Visible leaks had caused the steel structure supporting the canvass roofs to rust. PWD said construction of the center had not met the standards outlined by the department, adding that irregularities in construction work including the use of substandard materials led to defects. And to think that this was one of the venues for the Malaysia Games last year!

Following these two incidents, the PWD was dispatched to check Terengganu’s RM123 million Sultan Mahmud Airport, which was also just a year old at the time, and discovered to everyone’s chagrin that the roof (what is this Terengganu fascination with roofs?) was leaking.

And then I read yesterday’s The Star, which blared the headline “Roof disaster II” on their front page! Why didn’t I bat an eyelid? This time, again in Terengganu, a 150 meter-long skylight came crashing down at the soon-to-be-opened RM4.2 million express bus and taxi terminal in Kuala Berang, sending hundreds of sheets of glass crashing down. This time, four workers suffered cuts from the broken glass (pp. N1, N3). Ouch!

Malaysians can build great architectural edifices. In fact, we should be so proud of our capacity to build and build – all in the spirit of Malaysia Boleh! Yes, but in digesting all of the above, it would seem that we are so inventive that our constructions are timed to collapse prematurely. Fortunately, whole buildings have yet to topple over but parts of them have shown to be less resilient. I guess a lot of Malaysians will be very anxious and alarmed when they read about all these happenings, but I urge everybody to stay calm. It’s really nothing to worry about. Terengganu is managed by the ruling UMNO – so they know what they are doing. They have more than 50 years of precious experience in governing this country. They only have our best interests at heart – so we should not be hasty to blame them just because roofs of buildings don’t stay in place and start coming apart. There is obviously a perfectly sound reason to explain all of these.

Let’s be logical, okay? In all four cases, there were problems with the roofs. Malaysia boleh (i.e. can) build all the buildings we want to build but we lacked expertise on roof construction. Okay, I should not generalize. It’s only in Terengganu where we have problems. You and me and everybody else will conveniently infer that the ceilings of buildings are likely to have defects if they are built in that state. Simple logical deduction, right? But that doesn’t explain the whys. I believe there must be a theory that can help explain these phenomena.

Methinks we purposely made flawed roofs. This is to pointedly tell the world that it’s time we adopt an open-air concept for all buildings. What with global warming, all the more reason that we should not trap warm air in these superstructures. If we don’t have confined spaces, then we don’t need air-conditioning. So we save on electricity bills. Without roofs, we have proper ventilation. And we all know that when there’s excellent ventilation, this contributes to a healthy living environment. Terengganu after all, is a coastal state and so sea breezes can push lots of fresh natural air into buildings. In other words, natural ventilation helps improve indoor air quality (the construction industry refers this as IAQ) by reducing the concentration of pollutants in indoor environments, which often experience concentration levels two to five times higher than found outdoors.

Ever wondered why we always sleep more soundly after spending the day on the beach? Well it's because of the sea air. Sea air is charged with healthy negative ions that increase our ability to absorb oxygen. These negative ions help balance levels of serotonin, a body chemical associated with mood and stress. This is the reason that after vacationing you feel more alert, relaxed and energized and after a day spent at a beachfront hotel (suddenly Hyatt Kuantan comes to mind!), you start feeling deeply relaxed and able to rest more soundly. So when we are in Terengganu, because we are by the sea – it’s like being on vacation even if we are not! Get it? Am I sounding convoluted? Can you understand what I am trying to say here?

If you have been to Terengganu or any place where there’s beaches – the sunshine feels different somehow. Don’t you agree? Even if it is hot, but it is not as stifling hot or oppressive hot as in the cities. This is because the sun feels magnified and it makes you feel relaxed in a comfortably warm kind of way. And the heat of the sun has a positive effect on our endocrine system (the part of our body which releases endorphins) which means, these natural feel good chemicals are actually designed to produce a calming effect on us, so that we don’t feel so stressed. And that reminds me too – I recall reading somewhere that the sound of waves alters the wave patterns in the brain soothing us into a deeply calm and relaxed state. So it helps us revitalize our mind and body. What I mean is that by not having roofs – hopefully, we can hear the sound of waves, and when we capture this sound, it’s going to help us in a very healthy way. If you cannot hear anything, then I am really sorry for you and it's not going to help you, hehe.

Terengganu Menteri Besar Ahmad Said publicly chided PWD and the local authorities for failing to regularly monitor the progress of construction of public buildings, according to The Star today (p N8). Aiyah, don’t make a mountain out of a molehill lah! I already said Malaysians have difficulty to multi-task. If the Terengganu authorities are monitoring their citizens’ states of mind (e.g. checking level of endorphins being released, wave patterns in our brains), we cannot expect them to properly supervise the construction of these structures. Nobody died wad – what’s the big deal? And of the four who were injured – only one was a Malaysian, the other three were Bangladeshis. And for all you know, that Malaysian is likely to be a PAS fella – so no big deal lah!

Let’s not detract from the real issue. When our construction people make roofs that will totter and sway and cave in, it was to promote this open-air concept for Malaysian buildings, and they wanted to dramatically demonstrate this. This is because Malaysians often have short attention spans, so only by sensationalizing news (such as roof collapses) will make us sit up and pay attention. Now, aren’t Malaysians innovative? We must admit that to pull this off requires creativity and derringdo. Only Malaysia Boleh can imbue us with these two important qualities.

And hopefully, we will buy this crap, and everybody will soon forget about shoddy workmanship, corrupt practices, and all the other malignant issues that embrace Malaysian society today. Yay-y-y-y! Malaysia Boleh!

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