Wednesday, January 30, 2008

One way tickets

Its been a long time hasn't it? Where was I?

Ahh yess.... I was busy bragging.

Much has happened since I last posted something. Not surprisingly, given the lengthy period of absence. Among others, I've been elected as International Students Representative for the student union last year, and I'm in office since New Year. There are also a myriad of other posts it various organizations. Perhaps I've been over-active in extracurricular activities, because my exam results were less-than-impressive. Better get my act together, or I stand to lose just about everything.

I've also sent my sister to KL, to study at TARC. Oh boy, the red tape was a nightmare. What was supposed to a one day escort job turned into a two day marathon of patience. We were very fortunate to have an uncle living nearby and providing temporary accommodation. Its good for my sis too, since she is very close to my cousin, and now they can visit each other every weekend! Heh... crazy gal, she decided to take 5 subjects when she only needed 4. But I'm sure she can handle it. Unlike me, she has a tendency to score Straight A's quite often. There seems to be a Chinese Orchestra here too. Good for her, I'm sure she'd love it. She was the chairperson of a similar group in secondary school.

Anyway, aside from getting through that nightmare, I'm also glad that the bus ride was uneventful. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my friend, who took a bus from Penang to KL a few days ago. The Konsortium Bas Ekspress Sdn Bhd bus skid, slammed into the road divider, and flipped on its side. An MPV, unable to stop in time, crashed into the wreck.

My friend, Nian Ning perished in that accident, along with two others. The driver escaped with a broken leg. Police say there are 13 summons issued against the bus (but not the driver, weird huh!). Survivors say the driver was SMS-ing and speeding on a rainy day.

It was such a rude shock to me. I have dealt with death before, my great-grandmother, my (other) uncle, my teacher's wife... ect. But this is different, she died so young, so tragic, and she was so full of promise. I think I'm done reeling from shock by now, but I assure you that's a very very recent development.

We met only briefly, just for one semester, and she spent a significant portion of that in hospital due to a badminton accident. But she sure left an impression, and that's no small feat because I'm terrible with names and faces. Just ask some of my close friends, I do make some very awkward "Do you remember XYZ?" "Err......." moments. Aye, what do you expect from one who turns the house upside down while holding a pen, searching for something to take a message over the phone with?

Best moment ever was actually a internet chat with her after she was discharged from hospital after the aforementioned badminton accident. During a game with a mutual friend, the shuttlecock got lodged in her eye, resulting in temporary blindness and an eye bandage. Was she angry? If she was then she did a good job hiding it. She was more like "Arr... I'm a pirate". Laughing all the way...

The last time I contacted her was Merdeka day. Her university was hosting the Malam Gema Merdeka event and I was going. Turns out she's staying put at home to study for an exam. She then took interest in my MSN display picture (a 50th year of Independence logo) and asked for it so she can use it as DP too.

I had always wanted to pay her a visit. UoW wasn't that far from UNSW. About 2 1/2 hours by public transport, close enough for a day trip. In fact I've made several such trips to Sydney, two of which took me to UNSW. Missed my chance I guess.

Its sad that one such as her just passed away like that, but what's even sadder is that this isn't the first time a reckless bus driver has put literally a busload of lives on the line. Worse? Each time (expect this time!?) the government unleashed a flurry of action against bus drivers and companies, only to quietly cool from Saharan heat to Antarctic chill within the fortnight, until tragedy strikes again.

Sigh, and to you, the poor lost souls who accidentally wondered into the ruin that is my defunct blog, here's what you can do. Do everyone a favour and sign this petition will ya? Show some love, and spread the word too. I just hope we'd be able to maintain the pressure this time, that's the only way to counter ineffective knee-jerk reactions.

"It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it"
---- General Douglas MacArthur

Sigh... "fatal" is right... too right. I've taken this quote out of context? Maybe, but too many lives has been lost to ignorance and apathy.

As for the poor very very lost souls who stumbled into my blog without a clue what's going on, here's a Facebook group dedicated to Nian Ning. There are lot's of links, comments, photos and videos posted there. That should bring you up to speed on what she and this accident is all about:

In Loving Memory of Lee Nian Ning: 1987-2008

Not content with just leaving my mark there (and that petition) and leave, I tried gathering some data. Perhaps I could construct a detailed timeline of fatal bus express bus accidents, or even do some number crunching and turn it into statistical data. When are bus accidents most likely to happen? Which company should be crowned "Devil's carriage"? That could be useful to any lobbyist?

Alas, I forgot I'm not in Australia. The only thing I can get from the government are road-kill statistics from the police website, sorted by vehicle, driver/passenger numbers, and year (2002-2006).

I tried to dig though the media archives, and no luck there either. The Star keeps their online archive for up to a year only (that also means the links on the Facebook group won't last forever). E-media, which seems to be the one behind New Straits Times, Berita Harian, and a few other publications, keep their records all the way back to 1991. Yay~. But the downside is, if I want anything more that excerpts, they want my credit card (huh?! what credit card?) and take a few hundred Ringgit for it. Their search engine is quite crappy too.

And my problems don't end there. Even if I get the full article, they don't always have all the information I'm looking for. The name of the bus company involved is especially hard-to-get, leaving a lot of "Unknown"s in my Excel spreadsheet. Eventually, I just have up. It was a futile, physically and emotionally draining exercise (so much so that I slept in front of my laptop) that I simply don't have the political muscle and manpower to pull off. A spreadsheet full of holes is useless to anyone anyway.

I have this to say though, certain bus companies do show up more often than others, even while I've been careful to filter out everything other than media reports to avoid duplicate hits. Konsortium and Transnasional seems to be quite prone, but with the scarcity of information, and no knowledge of their scale of operations (conventional wisdom suggest that the bigger your operation, the more accidents you have), it would be premature and unfair to draw any conclusions (unfair... I'm gonna hate myself for saying this, but I can't argue with that). Nonetheless, its a tantalizing piece of clue.

The only way to get to the bottom of this, information campaign wise, is from official records, especially police reports and investigations. Hmm... its an election year, anyone wanna have a go at lobbying for something like America's Freedom of Information act? lol. Our government has talked lots about transparency right, let's see if they have kept their word.

As for the driver and whoever put him behind the wheel, I have this to say. I'm very tempted to beat them all to a pulp. But here's the catch, would it bring her back? No. Is it a good idea to taint the memory of a lovely, cheerful girl who so fervourishly pursued a career in medicine, with blood? No. Even if it does bring her back, is this how she wants to be brought back? No.

Sigh, hopefully survivor syndrome catches up on them and wrecks their nerves. Malaysia's mental healthcare system is virtually non-existent anyway (unfortunately for the other survivors). Hopefully, the law would nab them too, and give them something worthwhile, not a mere 3 months jail time or something.

I'd guess the only way to cherish her memory, other than remembering her, is to ensure that preventable accidents like this do not occur any more. To ensure that she, and many others (too many) before her do not die in vain. Perhaps in that way, she would still be saving lives. Its just not the way she expected. But aside from leaving my name on a petition and telling people about her story on my deserted blog, what else can I do? SOMEBODY GIVE ME A CLUE!

Rest in peace Nianz.

Sis, please be safe when you take the bus.


Blogger Bus Crash No More said...

Please come for Nian Ning's memorial. see blog for more details! Please help to publicize it too. We want to get the media's attention

February 02, 2008 2:54 AM  

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