BELADIN: We left Beladin right after the ceremony to officially open Masjid Beladin Al-Amin concluded in the hopes of getting ahead of the crowds who would be making their way to the Batang Saribas ferry point to cross back to Pusa.
As anticipated, the queue of vehicles waiting to board the ferry was already quite long when we took our place in line. But we felt we were making good time as we could see the ferry point about 150 metres from where we were.
Before we knew it, a 20-strong convoy of 4-wheel drives and cars bearing QSG license plates and the names of various government agencies – including JKR Betong, Jabatan Pertanian, Jabatan Pengaliran and Saliran Sarawak, Jabatan Perbendaharaan Negeri and the Civil Defense – conspicuously emblazoned across their sides roared past us toward the ferry point. .
They disregarded the vehicles which had arrived earlier and formed a second queue which cut in front of the first queue.
When the next ferry arrived, we could see policemen in uniform calmly directing these vehicles onto the ferry as vehicles in our queue were prevented from boarding.
As more time passed, more vehicles bearing government license plates arrived and allowed to board the ferry first.
At one point, we estimated there were forty government owned vehicles making up two obviously ‘illegal’ queues waiting to board the ferry with more arriving every minute.
By now, the queue we were in stretched back as far as the eye could see and many people were getting out of their cars and craning their necks to see what was holding up the queue up front.
All in all, it took us two hours to inch forward the 150 meters towards the head of the line while government vehicles continued to blatantly cut queue.
When a member of our team asked a chief inspector directing the traffic why these vehicles were allowed to cut queue and members of the public who arrived much earlier were forced to wait for hours, the inspector replied that these government officers and civil servants needed to return to Kuching for a function that very night so they were given priority.
The driver of a lorry who overheard the police inspector’s reply later vented his frustrations to our team member, saying “I don’t understand why these government people are doing this to us, making us wait for two hours.”
It was impossible to overlook the irony that a number of officials and civil servants sitting in those government-owned vehicles had a ‘1Malaysia’ logo prominently displayed on their uniforms.
So much for ‘People First, Performance Now’, at least at the Beladin ferry point.