THE Brunei Malays are historically known for their fine culture and courteous mannerism, especially in terms of inter-personal relations in extending respect to others and helping the needy and recognisable for their humility and loyalty. They are now expected even more to maintain that as they are grounded on their national philosophy of the Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB), the mainstay of their civility, harmony and unity.
The philosophy encompasses the Bruneians as a people as a whole irrespective of race, religion and culture.
The concern here is whether as a people we have departed much from the noble cultural traits that underlie the main tenets of MIB in the context of mannerism vis-a-vis driving habits in this country.
It is known that issues related to our behaviour on the road have caught much attention nationally and also beyond our borders.
Driving in this country can hardly be described as civil, safe and pleasurable. Looking at our national statistics of road accidents and casualties for decades, sadly the country has not been doing well. Innumerable personal anecdotes about road bullies harassing people from behind their cars, reckless and ill-mannered overtaking, habitual oblivion of speed limits, indiscreet and callous car chase on busy roads, drastic disregard of public safety and many more reprehensible driving habits thus seem underline the problem in question.
We may want to be defensive about our driving behaviour, quality of driving and road safety enforcement but if such stand continues to be in the way of our objectivity, we may run into the risk of failing ourselves more miserably in the long run.
Indeed, it is already imperative to ask ourselves whether our bad driving habits have become endemic as a culture. If it is so, such departure from our MIB tenets in respect of mannerism may have bearings on other ways of our life.
Our record of involvement in car accidents outside this country seems not indicating otherwise. Its frequency, type of wrongdoing and injuries caused all vouch for bad and reckless driving habits. Not surprising of late, our neighbours have started to be vocal in labelling our drivers as disrespectful, reckless, arrogantly showy of expensive cars and blatantly oblivious of road safety practices and regulations.
Once we are labelled as such in negativity, it is imperative that we need to look at ourselves critically and objectively.
First of all, we as a people of this beloved nation should evaluate our mannerism in general and take our manners on the road as an indicator of a bigger picture. Pertinent questions must be asked and clinically answered.
There is no question that our mannerism has undergone certain changes that are only natural and inevitable. But we need to know whether such changes are mostly in form and thus our core values inculcated under the national philosophy of MIB still intact?
The agencies responsible for MIB and its inculcation should be more clinical in their knowledge of the level of attainment for the national philosophy as of now.
Surely, its inculcation strategies, programmes and implementation should by now be put under microscope to discover its true efficacy. By the look of our driving habits brimmed with recklessness, disrespect, arrogance, showy materialism and oblivion of enforcement measures, our traditional core values as gentle, humble, civil, respectful, patient, considerate, friendly, helpful and law-abiding seem gone into thin air.
Secondly, we must be critical of the agencies responsible for road safety and enforcement of relevant laws and regulations. Again strategic questions must be asked and answered without bias. As whether our policing is adequate to result in effective disciplining is a matter of great significance to probe.
Structurally, we may have a sound road safety institution comprising some agencies including the police but whether it works true to its compelling objectives is a matter to be honest about.
Requisite resources to make ends meet is another crucial factor.
The country has had enough enforcement systems including the demerit system, which up to now has not much to hear about.
Supposedly to make most of the systems work, a budgetary pledge has been made to provide enough Closed-Circuit Televisions (CCTVs) at most strategic points, but sadly this too has suffered a similar fate like the demerit system.
So we are left with human capital ie the police force to depend on. A large number of them work in office while outside police visibility is much to be desired.
Irresponsible and callous car chase on busy roads remains a common occurrence. Although road blocks at predictable places and times are a common feature but they are not effective to educate and discipline speedsters.
Time must not be wasted to defend our bad habits if they are truly so. We should find ways and means to redress them clinically.
The last thing we want is that our cultural transformation is not well aligned with our national philosophy, MIB.
In the time of our forebears, their mannerism was utopian in essence. In fact, their politeness and humility, for instance, could have gone too far and possibly got them into adverse subjugation if used wrongly by their adversaries.
But are we now getting in the rough? Is it now in our way of life that we are a people who tend to be impatient, less respectful, arrogant, too materialistic, take law in our own hands, pay less regard to other people’s welfare and safety, go overboard in regarding car as status symbol, feel compelled for car chase if overtaken and look down on people on foot?
We should try our level best to arrest the deterioration of our driving manners on the road. MIB inculcation programmes must be overhauled and made more clinical in its implementation, especially at school and community levels.
Moral education in school must re-emerge and be reinforced. Road Safety Council must be restructured not to overshadow the police. Full-time road policing must be established. Police visibility must be improved dramatically. More resources must be made available to install enough CCTVs, among other things to help the demerit system work. Law enforcement must be at its level best. Appropriate campaigns, for example pleasurable driving day, zero accident day, driving within speed limit day, courteous driving day, zero car chase day and the likes, must be thought out, implemented and sustained.
Surely, the relevant authorities have the capacity to walk their talk and ensure dedicated and sustained efforts for greater efficacy.
It would be the last thing to let bad driving habits of ours as the onset of our mannerism decay.