03 January 2010
APPALLING indeed, the toilet situation in the country. No, not the general state of public toilets that we already know of, much to our disgust, but the state of mind of those that matter when it comes to things toilet in the public domain.
Surprisingly, there are standards for public toilets in Malaysia, but for the people running the North-South Expressway and a school in Sibu, hardly anyone else seems to know of or want to subscribe to these standards. Considering that it is of public health concern -- an average person visits the toilet at least six times a day -- Department of Standards Malaysia director-general Fadilah Baharin says it's a shame really that the standards, MS2015, are not taken seriously.
Surely, it's not that Malaysian officialdom is ignorant of the importance of toilets. At the turn of the century, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad briefed his cabinet about the abysmal state of our public toilets that led to the department coming up with the standards in 2006. Why, over 2,000 years ago in China, a king of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD), going by the discovery in his tomb, saw it fit to have a toilet "complete with running water, a stone seat and a comfortable armrest" in the afterlife.
As we patiently wait for wisdom to descend on those officials from the public and private sectors that provide or plan for our public facilities, and while we wrinkle our noses at public toilets, let us not cast the first stone. While we recalcitrant adults may, by our crass behaviour, sheer ignorance or in dotage, be messy in that little public area, let us consider the theme for this year's World Toilet Day, celebrated annually on Nov 19: "The health of your child begins in the toilet". Proper toilet training must begin at home for what our children learn when they are young will be with them for the rest of their lives.
It's not that official efforts are not being made. In between policing public potties, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Robert Lau Hoi Chew, when he was the chairman of the Quality Restroom Association of Malaysia, had pushed for the signing of the Memorandum of Cooperation between the association, the National Toilet Cleanliness Committee, local authorities, the Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association, Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association and Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association.
So, as we berate and badger the authorities to provide clean and proper facilities of acceptable Malaysian standards, let us ask ourselves: are we properly potty trained?