The man behind Malaysia's toilet revolution

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l 100+ pointsm 1+ points - Newb
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Meet Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh, Menteri Besar of Terengganu, a Sultanate of Malaysia. All those big words mean he is charged with making Malaysia more attractive to tourists. And he's a hard worker -- this high-level government official conducts spot checks on public toilet facilities personally.

Why? Of all the things he has to worry about in a tourist infrastructure -- transportation, hotel capacity, parking garages -- why toilets?

Because Malaysia has a pretty bad reputation among tourists -- and its own people - for the state of its toilets. As one commenter to an article in the Times Online puts it, "Malaysian public lavs remind me of France in the early 80s. Particularly annoying is that even when you find a "real" loo there's usually no paper and even if there is someone has used the hose on the wall instead and now the cubicle looks like a shower - water everywhere!" The author of the Times Online article agrees that while Malaysia has much to be proud of, its toilets are "execrable."

If a big shot government official is himself inspecting toilets, then these Malaysian horror stories may be no exaggeration. And Idris Jusoh's anal behavior is part of what has been dubbed a "toilet revolution" in that country. Other parts of this revolution include the fact that public toilets are to be upgraded to "high tech" models and, amazingly, there is now a college course available: How to Keep Public Restrooms Clean!

This course deals with design, maintenance and hygiene -- the essentials of anything toilet-related. Classes will start in the next three years. "Mom, Dad, I've decided to major in toilets!" Time was when I would find that hilarious -- however, now that I'm working in the lumber and hardware business, I have come to appreciate just how involved toilet design, plumbing, maintenance, repair, and cleanliness really is. Doubtless the Malaysian course will have heavy emphasis on plumbing theory and practice, as well as engineering. But chemistry, biology, and sociology will also play their part.

The Malaysian toilet revolution illustrates some of the difficulties associated with changing cultural mores (from the Times Online: "the transition from the traditional Asian squat toilet to Western-style seats"). It also highlights the importance of good public toilet facilities to keep society running smoothly. I'm sure everyone has, at some point, been inside a toilet that has made you frown, retch, or flee in horror. No one likes to walk into a feces-ridden cubicle and find no toilet paper (or, worse, no dispenser at all); and I'm sure that most people would prefer to sit on a seat than on the cold porcelain bowl itself. If this revolution is about fixing all that's wrong with Malaysia's public toilets, then I'm all for it. As Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said last year, "Good, clean toilets are associated with good health, good manners, good upbringing, good housekeeping and civilization. That is why the Government feels this must be a national effort."

And what an effort. Even as the revolution gains strength, Idris Jusoh will continue to carry out spot checks. "I am not going to rest on my laurels, hoping that the situation is all okay on the ground." Well, Mr. Idris Jusoh, thanks to you, we can hope that the one thing not on the ground in your public toilets will be the restroom users' poop!

4 Comments on "The man behind Malaysia's toilet revolution"

Fart Poopie's picture
j 1000+ points

Good for him! It sounds like he takes a great deal of pride in his job. It's a matter of making a reputation for crappy toilets and bad hygiene go away, and he's going out there, and making sure they get cleaned up and updated.

Mr. Idris Jusoh, this poop reporter applauds you.

Brown Bomber's picture
m 1+ points - Newb

Talk about a shitty job.

Bunga Din's picture
j 1000+ points

Nice report Scatoman. Malaysia has seen unprecedented economic growth in spite of the push from some groups to Islamicize the nation. One of the first things you see with countries that have turned the corner economically speaking is a push to beautify the cities and bring in the tourist trade and to do this jumping on a program to clean up rest facilities is a no brainer.

Toots N. McCrack's picture
l 100+ points

Ahh, that helps restore some faith in politicians! So nice to see that an elected(?) official will actually go into the trenches (latrines) and fight/work for a cause he believes in, not afraid to get his hands dirty as it were, for his country's benefit ;) And not be embarassed about the subject matter!

I'm sure we'd all love to see some pics if he ever does any "photo-ops" :)

The PR community should openly show support for this movement....


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'Hey that sounds pretty nasty, how about a courtesy flush over there?' (AP1)

'Hey that sounds pretty nasty, how about a courtesy flush over there?' (AP1)