THE Petaling District Office is vacating its premises soon to a location in Paya Jaras, Sungai Buloh.
By highlighting this matter, it does not mean that I am against the project. Nor am I suggesting any impropriety. On the contrary, the deal seems to benefit the state government especially since the new property is larger and is equipped with new information and telecommunication facilities. This could be why the present state government has allowed the plan to proceed.
However, despite the benefits, there are several issues that have not been adequately addressed by both the previous and present state governments.
What about the poor?
Way back in September 2006, the News Straits Times reported that Gapurna Builders Sdn Bhd had acquired the land where the district office is currently situated. As part of the deal, Gapurna would build an office that was three times larger than the present district office.
According to the report, the new office would be ready by the end of 2008 and upon completion, would be handed over to the Selangor government. In return, Gapurna would be given the site of the old office to develop its own project.
I am not entirely sure exactly where the new piece of property is, but district office personnel have been told to pack up and prepare to move to Paya Jaras. I can only surmise that with the order to vacate, the new office is ready.
Waiting for the bus: PJ’s welfare department is accessible via
public bus (© epanamen / sxc.hu)But some questions remain. For example, the present district office houses the Petaling District Welfare Department. Should this department be moved to Paya Jaras along with the rest of the district office, the poor will have a hard time gaining access to the department.
This is because Paya Jaras is not well connected by cheap public transportation, whereas the present office is now accessible by both public bus and KTM train services.
Hence, the poor living around Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya and Shah Alam may not be able to seek government assistance because of the prohibitive cost of reaching the welfare department.
Developers may keep trying their luck
There seems to be a trend to convert existing government buildings into mixed developments. A few months ago, the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) was made the same offer. A developer proposed a redevelopment exercise for the PJ Civic Centre and the MBPJ headquarters on Jalan Yong Shook Lin. The proposal included turning the location into a mixed development area while providing new improved office space for the council.
After consideration, MBPJ turned down the proposal. This decision, however, is only binding so long as the present council is in place. Any developer may try their luck with the next batch of councillors who may see the merits of such a proposal. Or a developer could sell the idea to the state government which could direct the council, under Section 9 of the Local Government Act 1976, to redevelop the council’s headquarters.
Not that a proposal to develop the MBPJ headquarters could happen that easily even if the government of the day approved the area’s redevelopment. This is because the land where MBPJ is situated has quite a number of neighbouring residential properties whose owners must be informed of any proposed development.
Need to resolve problems
Anyway, I digress. It may be too late to stop the new land owner from evicting the Petaling District Office from its present premises, but that does not mean the Selangor government is absolved from solving some of the issues resulting from the move.
The state government would have to ensure that the public transport infrastructure in Paya Jaras is improved and made affordable, or find alternative sites for the welfare department that is nearer to town.
After all, the poor will be the ones who will be most affected by this move.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak will see the expiration of his term as a councillor by the end of this month. To date, he still has no idea how councillors are selected.