“When will we ever learn?” the man was not his usual cheerful self that Sunday. His friends realized it was one of those mornings. So they waited for him to speak again because they knew it was best not to intervene. They left his thoughts for a moment.
Therefore, mostly they held their silence out of respect. They held him in deep regard. He was, after all, a former high-placed public servant, even though now retired.
But he had not lost the common touch and his old friends still, like this morning, flocked to him usually in a café in town t weekends.
And also they did not have to wait long before he spoke again. “I wonder what is going to be next?” he asked, addressing no one particular.
“Do you realize we have had a series of mishaps recently? First, the expulsion from the Olympics and hardly had we recovered from that, now the horrendous floods and the landslide that killed two people.
“Not to mention the massive blackouts which have been a major disaster, plunging many parts of the town into darkness for days. I do not know what is gong to hit us next,” commented the outspoken former official as he continued.
“To begin with, no one exactly knows why the famous Olympic fiasco. And why we were excluded from taking part. But there have been many versions.
“But I can only imagine it is because of our usual indecisiveness in getting things done. The world refused to wait hand and foot to us,” the man added venting his frustration.
“We are not anything special. We are just a small country. You are mistaken if you think that anyone is going to pay special homage to us. Who are we after all?”
After that the man paused a little. He was not that young anymore. He shouldn’t get over-excited over things now, he reminded himself.
But, a young girl in the group found it all very interesting. It did not take much effort to urge the man to say more.
“And the floods?” she asked innocently.
“Ah, the disastrous deluge,” the man eagerly continued. “We built some monsoon drains. But those get hopelessly clogged because very little effort is made to keep them clear. Most importantly, trees are cut down indiscriminately and that enables massive amount of exposed soil to be washed down into deep ditches. The result is the current floods.
“Also the denuding of the land, especially exposing the hills to heavy downpour, causes erosion and eventually leading to massive landslides like those that cost the lives of two people so tragically that week.
“We have delayed passing the much-needed laws to protect our trees and this is what we get as a consequence. But those responsible don’t seem to get it. Most of us seem to hate trees anyway. They continue to look for the cause of landslide elsewhere,” he lamented.
At this the young woman again spoke out. “It does seem very strange that we are waging a high profile international campaign to save trees in the heart of Borneo when we treat our trees at our doorsteps so poorly. Where is the logic of it at all?”
At this the man was happy that he found someone who understood the situation.
“Yes, you are right. Where is the logic, indeed? We are brought up from small hating trees, unfortunately. It is in our national psyche. It is our culture. There is little we can do about it.”
And the young lady goaded on him again. “And the blackout?”
“Ah, it is easy to blame it on the floods. But the real reason is the lack of planning. As it is, our lines are hopelessly overloaded. All advice to increase or provide alternative grid power has been studiously ignored.
“It is a technical planning and execution problem. They should have overdesigned the whole thing. In that case, current situation would not have happened most probably. The flooding is just a handy excuse.
“The writing was already on the wall when the previous Kiulap blackout hit us months ago. There was no rain or floods then.
“It exposed the problem then but nothing was done. Even they ignored previous advice about it. That is typical of us.” The man commented.
“Well, at this rate, it looks like we are waiting for the next thing to happen. But we do not know what or when it is going to be,” said the young lady.
And there was nothing even a bit more cheerful anyone could add. Everyone feel depressing.
When we will ever learn, indeed? That was the question most of them mulled over as they headed for home that day for their Sunday lunch.
By Ignatius Stephen, Borneo Bulletin, Sat 24 Jan 09
PS: This news article was very interesting and we should focus on the environment when the society undergo massive make over! I.e. Modernizations.