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Is MBPJ trustworthy?

THE Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) hit the headlines recently. “Who in MBPJ changed the status of a field in Kelana Jaya from recreational to commercial?” the Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) asked the mayor and council officers.

The case revolves around the Petaling Jaya Local Plan 2. Two versions of the book where the plan is published were discovered. One book was officially gazetted by the Selangor government and the other book, published by MBPJ, had 210 documented changes.

Two

How can there be more than one version?

For many, the issue’s relevance and importance may not be all that obvious. However, the discrepancy in both published versions of the Local Plan 2 is critical. Why? Because the council uses the local plan to justify development projects, and the council has before this used the local plan to silence public protests of development projects.

Round and round

Of course, there’s never a simple and straightforward answer to a seemingly simple question. When asked who was responsible for the land use conversion of the Kelana Jaya field, MBPJ town planning department senior assistant director, Faiwos Abd Hamid, said: “No one gave specific instructions. It involves many departments.”

Norasiah Bee Mohd Haniff (source: .jpbdselangor.gov.my)

Norasiah Bee Mohd Haniff (source: .jpbdselangor.gov.my)

When that answer was not acceptable, Faiwos reportedly claimed that the Selangor town and country planning department was the one who instructed the change in land use. This was immediately denied by the department’s deputy director, Norasiah Bee Mohd Haniff.

All this is reminiscent of my experience at MBPJ meetings when I raised similar issues. No one wants to admit to being at fault and no one wants to explain how the mess came about. Of course, my experiences were behind closed doors, so it mattered little how much noise I made.

Untrustworthy

Veteran journalist R Nadeswaran, who is better known as Citizen Nades, has expressed doubt that finding the culprits will be straightforward. Indeed, he believes that there will likely be an outright denial of responsibility by department heads.

This is indeed what happened in the subsequent Selcat hearing. At the hearing, Faiwos admitted that she implemented the changes to the Local Plan 2 on her then director Noraini Roslan’s instruction.

Noraini, who was urban planning director from 1 Sept 2010 to 30 June 2011, however said she did not explicitly ask for amendments to be made. She did admit though that she did not stop the process of amending the Local Plan 2. Hence, the central question of who exactly ordered the changes remains unanswered.

Whatever the drama at the Selcat hearings on this issue, the fiasco paints the entire council as untrustworthy. After all, how can the rules that residents and developers were supposed to abide by, to settle disputes over development proposals, be so easily manipulated without accountability?

Although Selcat is recommending for the Local Plan 2 to be revoked and then re-gazetted because the original local plan is assumed to be valid, can the public even trust that the original version is indeed valid? After all, the council officers who prepared the original document are the very same ones who subsequently made the unexplained changes to the plan.

Also not considered at the hearing was the fact that an exercise to replace the Local Plan 2 with a Special Area Plan was carried out by MBPJ early this year. The exercise cost hundreds of thousands of ringgit and was approved by the councillors. The Local Plan 2 was gazetted in January 2011. My question is, why have a Special Area Plan to replace the Local Plan 2 just a year after the Local Plan 2 was gazetted? Was that exercise done to cover up the changes to the Local Plan 2?

All these issues raise questions about the kind of management within the MBPJ. How could something like this happen right under the councillors’ noses?

Certainly, it’s important to find and punish the culprit or culprits. More importantly however is the replacement of department heads, the mayor and the councillors who oversee the approval of development projects. The persons who take over must then outline all the measures that will be taken to prevent such a violation of public duties from recurring. This has to happen if the local government wants the public’s faith in it restored.

Forewarned

While my recommendation to remove these persons in government may seem harsh, I do have my reasons.

I have told the council and my ex-colleagues that the local plans are invalid and that the document the council must refer to is the Selangor State Structure Plan and the National Physical Plan.

I validated my arguments by showing how thoroughly inconsistent the MBPJ is with the implementation of the first local plan for Petaling Jaya. I even presented specific case studies with documented evidence that the paperwork used in a project’s approval were inconsistent.

The fact that I can show all these inconsistencies in the way the local council is operating should have rung alarm bells for the mayor, department heads and the other councillors. Had the MBPJ conducted internal inquiries into these issues, the issue may have been nipped in the bud.

That nothing was done, even when a councillor had raised these issues publicly, demonstrates that the illegal conversion of the Kelana Jaya field from recreational to commercial use is merely a symptom. There is a much wider sickness within the MBPJ and the council’s top management can no longer claim ignorance as more evidence comes to light.


Former MBPJ councillor KW Mak has a whole file cabinet on development projects that the council approved. If he weren’t just one person, he wonders what other hanky panky he would discover.

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18 Responses to “Is MBPJ trustworthy?”

  1. Kong Kek Kuat says:

    @ KW Mak

    “This has to happen if the local government wants the public’s faith in it restored.”

    Aa… but a dual-question that keeps coming up in my mind: Why is there a need for them to restore the public’s faith in them? And so what if the public does not have faith in them?

    We still have to pay our rates, etc., regardless of whether we have faith in them or not. Can we do anything to punish them?

    MBPJ: “Apa you boleh buat, huh? Kami yang berkuasa. Jangan cabar kami. Lebih baik you jangan buat kecoh.”

    • KW Mak says:

      @ Kong Kek Kuat

      If you believe that the authorities are all powerful and cannot be challenged, you should just slap the tag ‘indentured servant’ on yourself and slave away for the government. Heck, I think if you repeat that statement often enough, MBPJ may even hire you to be their poster boy. ;)

      Anyway, I have said it before here and I will say it again: In the end, we will all meet our Maker. I’d rather meet the Almighty saying that I tried my best.

      Regards.

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ KW Mak

        No, I´m sorry [...] I have not thought of being subservient to my boss, let alone my incompetent government [...].

        The problems you and others have highlighted show this:

        1. The problem really is before our very eyes: There really is no way to punish them other than to leave them at the mercy of God. Mat Deros comes to mind, although I don´t believe he was punished by God — I see him as one of those who got away. But more vivid in my mind was his defiance of the Sultan of Selangor! Again: “Apa you boleh buat, huh? Kami yang berkuasa. Jangan cabar kami. Lebih baik you jangan buat kecoh.” We really have to knock them off their perch before they will take the public (ex property developers and the rich *#&!$%s) seriously.

        2. So, the mother of all solutions is really very absolutely decidedly simple, AND PAKATAN RAKYAT LISTEN UP (!!!): Bring back local council elections!

        • KW Mak says:

          @ Kong Kek Kuat

          At a dialogue between residents and a Parti Keadilan Rakyat MP, when the residents asked what happened to the local government elections promise, the MP said something along the lines of, “Please don’t confuse me with the DAP who made that promise. Show me where I made such a promise.”

          Perhaps you aren’t shouting loud enough for Pakatan Rakyat to hear your demands about local government elections then?

          Regards.

          • Kong Kek Kuat says:

            @ KW Mak

            Please tell us who this PKR MP is.

            In any case, my impression that the local government is all powerful and cannot be challenged still remains. Again: “Apa you boleh buat, huh? Kami yang berkuasa. Jangan cabar kami. Lebih baik you jangan buat kecoh.”

          • KW Mak says:

            @ Kong Kek Kuat

            I did mention who the MP was in my original posting – TNG edited it out though. [...]

            Regards.

            • Yes, we did edit it out just as we are editing out your description in this posting about how to find out who the PKR MP was. We have done this for two reasons:

              1. We were not there to verify who said what at the forum you refer to nor do we have the resources to look for recordings of the event to verify the accuracy of who said what and when.

              2. If we are to name the MP and hence cast him in a particular light, then in fairness, TNG should also call him up and ask him for his side of the story. For e.g. whether he actually said what he did, and if he did, what did he mean and what was the context of his remarks.

              We promised in our editorial policy (http://www.thenutgraph.com/editorial-policy/) to be accurate, fair and accountable at all times to the best of our abilities. And where we don’t have the resources to do so, then we will be unable to publish certain things in the interest of good ethical journalistic standards.

              @Mak, if you have any recordings of the event, pls make them available to us and we can review this decision based on what we can verify to be accurate and fair.

  2. Perhaps a starting point would be the enabling legislation which will give you an idea of what powers and authority, and any discretions that flow from these powers and authorities, lie in the hands of the Council. And when you look at that, you must be able to also discover the regulations that go with the legislation that covers procedures for such actions by the Council.

    In the absence of this you are all fumbling in the dark on something that you are unsure of and making wild guesses as to who has failed to do what and for what reasons.

    Council is part of local government. A central part of local government. It is sovereign and that sovereignty is derived from the doctrine of sovereignty which empowers elected representatives to exercise very wide discretions in the application of rules and laws. In order to dispute their actions or to challenge these you must do more than simply make wild allegations. Thus far no one has seen it fit to identify the relevant breaches of any local government or planning law with any degree of specificity.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ Gopal Raj Kumar

      Specifics were mentioned. You just need to click on the links. However, I doubt what’s written would satisfy you, so please continue to make your own baseless accusations that others are making baseless accusations.

      *rolls eyes*

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ KW Mak

        You actually understood what he was saying? I couldn´t understand any of his drivel after the first glance through his comment, and I couldn´t be bothered to glance through the second time.

        • KW Mak says:

          @ Kong Kek Kuat

          Not quite fair to ask me that question and not ask the comments editor to answer that as well. The comments editor approved the comment, which would imply that the comments editor understood what was written first… haha.

          :p

          • Kong Kek Kuat says:

            @ KW Mak

            I think the comments editor´s intention is to hang him out to dry. I like that!

      • You continue to froth. I am not suggesting you are right or wrong. I put forward a counter proposition and controvert your opinions because you have not made out your case. If that hurts then well personal criticism is still not warranted and as the old saying goes, “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”.

  3. Alwin Lim says:

    I may not have the same level of faith as you guys but there must something in the body that thinks there must be conscience somewhere. I think only sacking the two who are responsible for changing the plan will suffice to restore any dignity there is left in MBPJ. The system may be dented over the years but there must be at least an attempt to restore back the confidence of the people.

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ Alwin Lim

      Yes, there is (conscience in MBPJ): It is named KW Mak. And he´s quit that little fiefdom.

      I´m sure there may well be other conscience, too.

  4. zamorin says:

    @ Gopal Raj Kumar,

    When and how did “The council” become sovereign again? And…..

    You are explaining the constituents of the government to an ex-Councillor? Nice.

    • Your admission is not one anyone of a reasonable mindset would care to put on the public record in such a debate. But that is your choice and no one has forced you to out yourself. You fail to answer or to deal with the critical issues you and your cacophony of critics make. Why are you so sensitive to any query about a contrarian point of view. Does an argument not have more than one side? Or do you call a monologue an argument?


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