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Much ado about PJ’s mayor: Another case for local council elections

(source: mbpj.gov.my)

Mohamad Roslan (source: mbpj.gov.my)

ON 1 Oct 2012, Petaling Jaya mayor Datuk Mohamad Roslan Sakiman was transferred out of his post to a new post by the Public Services Department (PSD) without warning. A day later, the Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim ordered the mayor to stay put.

On 3 Oct, the PSD agreed to postpone the transfer to 1 Dec, but said that the transfer was agreed to by the Selangor government.

On 4 Oct, the Selangor government responded by saying that while there had been a discussion on the appointment of officers, no agreement had been reached on the subject. The state government insisted that the position of mayor is the prerogative of the state authority and not the PSD.

Both sides have not budged from their position. When 1 Dec comes, who shall Mohamad Roslan obey? And what are the long-term solutions if such transfers were to be repeated in the future?

Legality

Derek Fernandez (source: mbpj.gov.my)

Derek Fernandez (source: mbpj.gov.my)

Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor Derek Fernandez has rightly pointed out that Section 10 of the Local Government Act 1976 allows the state authority the sole and exclusive power to determine the mayor’s tenure.

“PSD cannot override a statutory appointment. So, he has to report for duty and perform his function as a mayor,” said Fernandez, as reported in The Star.

What Fernandez failed to mention however, is that the PSD also has the jurisdiction to direct where their officers serve. In the event there is a conflict of orders, who should Mohamad Roslan obey?

Indeed, as an officer who draws his salary from the federal government and with a pension programme to look forward to when he retires, it would seem unlikely that Mohamad Roslan would even dare disobey the PSD.

All this could be resolved if the state government would just appoint a politician to the post of mayor, as nothing in the Local Government Act stipulates that the mayor must be a PSD officer to begin with.

So why is the state authority fighting so hard to keep Mohamad Roslan on the job?

Blame game

An excuse often used by the Pakatan Rakyat government when the MBPJ does not perform its duties properly is that they are being internally sabotaged by their own officers.

Two

How can there be more than one version of the Petaling Jaya Local Plan 2?

For example, when multiple copies of the Petaling Jaya Local Plan 2 (RTPJ2) were discovered, councillor Fernandez went on air on TV3 to say that this was an internal act of sabotage. At the MBPJ September full board meeting where the audit report on this fiasco was presented, however, the council could not pinpoint who was at fault and the decision in the end was that the council would file a police report on the matter. This matter clearly happened under the tenure of Pakatan Rakyat.

In an email that a resident wrote to complain about the long response time it took for officers to acknowledge and reply to residents, the resident asked why the officers were not held accountable and removed from office if they could not perform. This email was forwarded to many individuals, myself included.

Tiew (source: mbpj.gov.my)

Tiew (source: mbpj.gov.my)

Richard Yeoh (source: mbpj.gov.my)

Richard Yeoh (source: mbpj.gov.my)

In her reply to the resident, MBPJ councillor Tiew Way Keng said, “All the non-contract civil servants are under [PSD], fall under Federal Government. Unless we take over Putrajaya, to change the entire system, we are still struggling with the same system that already exists before PR take over Putrajaya.” (sic)

This same message was repeated by councillor Richard Yeoh at a public forum on 14 July 2012 when residents asked if there was a way to remove government officers from the council.

Local government elections

Whatever the real reason for this ridiculous tussle, the ones that are caught in the middle are the ratepayers who may not be getting the best person for the job of running the fair city of Petaling Jaya.

(source: mbpj.gov.my)

A ridiculous tussle… (Mohamad Roslan pic source: mbpj.gov.my)

For a local council to allow multiple copies of the RTPJ2 to be produced and have investigations that failed to uncover the person(s) responsible means that the residents of PJ have to continue being wary of anything the council does.

The present system provides for only council members from the political coalition that gains power at the state government level. This allows all the members to close ranks and collude among themselves if need be.

Local councils need to have the check and balance of having a ruling council and an opposition voice to ensure that everything is above board. The only way that can happen is through local government elections, with particular emphasis for the mayor’s post to be an elected position.


Former MBPJ councillor KW Mak believes the best interim measure on this issue is to have Pakatan Rakyat appoint one of their own politicians to the position of mayor or advertise the position and allow the public to scrutinise the successful applicant’s résumé.

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25 Responses to “Much ado about PJ’s mayor: Another case for local council elections”

  1. hclau says:

    Dear KW Mak,

    Please campaign for the Mayor and council of Kuala Lumpur to be elected. If that is done, then I believe that will lend more credence to your article and also to yourself as an earnest “politician”.

    **On a side note**
    Do you or any readers here know who is responsible for the handling of abandoned schools in Wilayah Kuala Lumpur? I have my eye on an abandoned “new” school in Danau Desa with intention to turn it into a charity academic training centre for dis-advantaged children. (School buildings were built 10 years ago and never used. Left abandoned and overgrown!!)

    • KW Mak says:

      @hclau

      I think there’s something in the National Land Code that mentions that if a development isn’t completed after 6 years, the land would be returned to the government. Except, in this instance, a school is a government project… so there’s really no one to return the land to.

      I’m not interested in running for the mayor of Kuala Lumpur or for the mayor of any city / town council for that matter at this point in time. What I am fighting for at the moment is for PJ property owners with leasehold titles to be given freehold, and that fight is on a different platform.

      For more information on that, listen to this: http://www.bfm.my/2012-10-12-tps-mak-khuin-weng.html

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ KW Mak

        It depends on the title to the land.

        Without being legal or technical, I think if you are speaking about reversions (if at all it is applicable in hclau´s example) under the NLC, then the land would be returned to the State Govt., unless the land had been alienated in perpetuity to the Federal Govt. for the project, or that the land is a forest reserve to start off with (which means it belongs to the Federal Govt.).

        • KW Mak says:

          @ Kong Kek Kuat

          Yes yes. The National Land Code. I’m studying it earnestly at the moment, but it can get complicated.

          Getting technical is precisely how we improve our understanding of this piece of legislature however, since it is procedural law. I am always looking for more sparring partners to share views on the technicalities of the NLC.

          Regards.

          • Kong Kek Kuat says:

            @ KW Mak

            The NLC is not merely procedural. The NLC contains substantive law, adjective law, as well as some cross-links with other disciplines of law. What I meant in my comment was that I will avoid getting legal or technical. It takes many, many hours to study the NLC wholly, and many, many more hours and opportunities (in difficult cases) in practice to attain a certain satisfactory standard of proficiency. You have my support.

    • Kong Kek Kuat says:

      @ hclau

      Hire a good lawyer to help you out. Don´t be stingy with the legal fees, but do hire the correct ones. A good lawyer will know where to sniff for info.

      **On a side note**
      Do not hire based on experience, but hire based on knowledge. There are lawyers out there who have been so-called “specialising” in land matters for more than 25 years. But all they´ve done are bread-and-butter conveyancing. [...]

      • hclau says:

        Hai KKK,

        Think you mis-read my request.

        There is an abandoned school complex in Danau Desa. Fully built with several rather nice modern buildings, including a school field. It was built more than 10 years ago by “someone” Probably JKR for the MOE. It was never opened / used since completion.

        I am linked up with a charity organisation doing education for disadvantaged children. That place would make a very nice centre. Just wondering if I can get hold of the agency that is responsible or have ownership of that abandoned school with the view of acquiring it from them – token lease? maybe?

        From the initial survey, it will take about $5 million to restore to working order – including fixing structural defects.

        NOT challenging anyone for legal custody!

        • Kong Kek Kuat says:

          @ hclau

          Simplest thing to do, I suppose, is to pay a visit to the MOE.

          Apologies if you misread my comment: You do know that lawyers are not merely there for the battles, don´t you? They are also more than capable of consultation jobs (within their competency). A good lawyer should be able to answer all your questions for you, without you being sent back and forth from the reception at the MOE to the various pegawai-pegawai among the various departments and ministries, and then possibly still end up getting nowhere because no one really knows who´s in charge of what after all the ding-dongs.

          I don´t know if the TNG editorial policy would allow this, but I´m gonna ask anyway: May I know which charitable organisation it is? And regarding the children, what is the range of their communication ability (languages) and communication mode (IT, etc.)? Thanks.

  2. stewoolf says:

    “So why is the state authority fighting so hard to keep Mohamad Roslan on the job?”

    Reading this article without getting the answer is akin to chewing without swallowing. I’m lost.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ stewoolf

      I provided an answer, but it was a hypothetical answer that the editor wasn’t too comfortable with and I agreed to it being edited out. I didn’t have time to think of a new answer to the question I posed however, and didn’t think of rephrasing the question or deleting it outright to prevent confusion.

      Still, the question is a valid one. I think I shouldn’t be the one answering it though.

      • stewoolf says:

        Mak, appreciate your reply and the article. I thought it was a million-dollar question worth answering as I believe a highly functioning government is a product of a well informed electorate. For example, is the birds’ nest import ban a health issue or politics?! Imagine what a million-dollar investigative report can do to untangle the billion-dollar deadlock.

  3. Pei Ling says:

    Hi Mak, I think one of the main reasons the Selangor government is fighting so hard against the sudden re-appointment of the PJ mayor is that it doesn’t want this to become a precedent. PSD has had a free hand to do so with federal agencies in Selangor and it has been a disruptive practice. For instance, Perhilitan and Forestry Dept state chiefs have been transferred out after serving barely a year in Selangor. If the re-appointment of Roslan was done in good faith, why did the PSD not wait for Selangor to find a replacement? Was the decision made with PH residents’ best interests in mind? I wonder.

    But I agree with you that if we have an elected mayor, then neither the PSD nor the state government can end the mayor’s tenure arbitrarily.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ Pei Ling

      It really isn’t about precedence here. While I was a councillor, we had internal discussions and arguments about whether it was truly viable to have a PSD officer as the mayor. I argued for the removal of the mayor and replacing him precisely because should a conflict of instructions occur, you cannot blame the PSD for interfering since it is very much within their jurisdiction to do so.

      With this in mind, I will ask you then what’s the point of fighting this. Yes, the appointment of the position is at the discretion of the state authority, but nothing in the Local Government Act says that the mayor can’t resign from the position even after he accepts it. You can’t force a person to serve if he doesn’t want to or if he is beholden to another authority that commands his salary / pension.

      This is the reason why I believe that both the PSD and the Selangor government failed the residents of Petaling Jaya.

  4. Alwin Lim says:

    The PJ residents placed complete trust in the Local Concil but so many instances the trust is being shortchanged.

    The rates in PJ are one of the highest in Malaysia after maybe Kuala Lumpur. If the residents do not pay on time the council has strict power to evict or property will be auctioned.

    So then would it be fair to say that residents who pay up promptly have the similar strict power to evict unperforming,undisciplined or even corrupt staff?

    You can try to get an RTPJ plan (I myself tried) it is such a difficult task to do even as a ratepayer. After much persuasion and determination to get a copy, I managed to [get] 3 pages of the RTPJ as the office said it is only restricted to the area I live in. 3 pages and I spent 3 hours to do so.

    If the Mayor can be dismissed to another department in 24 hours with such poor explanations, why can’t underperforming and even corrupt staff with open proof of mismanagement and even corrupt practices like the Kelana Jaya Field fiasco in MBPJ be dismissed ? After all, residents placed high beliefs in SELCAT to get the accountability we so desperately need.

    In the commercial sector, staff can be and very often dismissed due to underperformance or failure to achieve a targetted KPI because the management need to explain to the board of directors. In this case the Councillors needs to explain to angry residents like me who sees all that is not right in our surroundings.

    In order for PJ to be a world class city it needs to start with a first class council. And all we can hope for is just honest and hardworking workers in the local council. There may be some, but the whole mentality of civil servants needs to change in order for the residents to look up [to them]. And believe me PJ residents too are a caring lot, they too can become angry because they are shortchanged and sometimes betrayed.

    There is still hope that the council will change for the better but it needs to revamp the mentality of the civil service.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ Alwin Lim

      Councils have a way of making up funny rules when there aren’t any. The Town and Country Planning Act states that a local plan is a public document. RTPJ1 is a local plan.

      RTPJ1 is also a gazetted document, or so the government claims. Which in this case, the point of gazetting a document is to inform the public that the government is making a public proclamation of its intentions. So there’s no question of restricting you to a few pages of the book when the RTPJ1 is a public document and gazetted.

      The next time some government officer tells you about any restriction, ask them to cite which section of the law says so. That’s how I catch the officers who attempt to tell me fictitious rules each and every time.

  5. Kong Kek Kuat says:

    @ KW Mak

    Agree!

  6. Alwin Lim says:

    I have been living in PJ all my life. My parents and my grandparents lived in PJ and many of my neighbours, classmates and friends.

    I have to say PJ city has turned into the worse place in recent memories with traffic jams, uncollected rubbish, dirty restaurants, broken roads, crime, illegal loanshark banners, illegal parking during worship times on the major roads, gambling dens under the pretext of cybercafes, construction mishaps, accidents, air and noise pollution, burst pipes, clogged drains and pipes, corruption, flooding on roads, not enough parking spaces, spoiled parking metres. The list goes on and on.

    I remember in the 80s being a councillor was a vocation looked upon highly and the Mayor was of great stature and therefore PJ was lively and a safe place for education, fun, work and family oriented leisure grounds. We didn’t even lock our gates and doors then.

    If you look around PJ today it’s really dissapointing. I guess it reflects on the city council. The health of the structured council will normally be reflected in the city you see. Obviously the council isn’t very healthy with the Mayor treated like a delivery boy. At the moment, the city also looks very unhealthy. As the Russians say, “The fish rots from the head [down]“.

    We have heard so many times that unless we can capture Putrajaya, the whole civil service mentality would not change. And one term of over four years isn’t enough to do anything. So how long do we really need for real change to happen? Mind you four years is enough for a student to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree.

    Take for example [...] the issue of dangerous traffic islands in section 17 [which has been falling] on deaf ears. Recently, a 19 year old student from University Malaya died after she was hit by a car when she was crossing the road. [...]

    MBPJ proudly announces the arrival of new solar powered recycling bins and it is visually apparent along Jalan Semangat, Jalan University and Section 16 in Phileo Damansara. Another radical suggestion was the introduction of trams and water taxies in Petaling Jaya.

    Its seems that MBPJ couldn’t be bothered with [prioritising] matters of life and death but heads to fanciful pursuits. Not that I am against new radical proposals, but if you cannot get the basics right, how then can you manage something that requires greater management needs? We would see unmaintained boats, clogged rivers, and spoiled trams as what we typically expect in Malaysian style management and then the blame game begins and never ending disputes will follow and then there will be more articles in the Nut Graph.

  7. Omar Gous says:

    Are you sure the MBPJ mayor’s salary is paid by the federal govt? He may be a Federal officer, but he is seconded to the state govt, hence, state govt pays his salary. His eventual pension will be paid by the federal govt.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ Omar Gous

      From what I have been told, the Federal Government would transfer the necessary funds on an annual basis to the respective government agencies that the officer is currently seconded to for salary payments. This transfer of funds would include the salaries of all Federal Government officers that are seconded, not just the mayor alone.

      That’s why I say the mayor’s pay is still from the Federal Government.

      Regards.

  8. Flag of Truth says:

    When any officer or staff is seconded to other agencies, whether it is state or federal, it is the duty of the agency which the officer or staff is seconded to, to pay the salaries and other benefits until the officer or staff is posted back to the federal agency.

  9. “Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor Derek Fernandez has rightly pointed out that Section 10 of the Local Government Act 1976 allows the state authority the sole and exclusive power to determine the mayor’s tenure.”

    Could you explain the above statement extracted from your article above please? What is “right” about what Derek Fernandez has “pointed out” in this regard?

    Local government and the way in which they function is a very interesting topic, is topical in the context of Petaling Jaya and is something perhaps more people should participate in.

    The democratic functioning of government is best controlled by citizens at the local government level. Selangor’s opposition-led state government is clearly dysfunctional and a case of a missed opportunity that can be dealt with through the control and functioning of local government [...].

    The state is dirty, its physical structures in need of cleaning and repair, and its general condition a reflection of the internal workings of an inexperienced self-serving bunch of amateurs.

    Perhaps the blow torch to the PJ council served as a lesson for others within Selangor to emulate because the state government is the best example of why opposition should not be given the opportunity to serve any term as federal government.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ Gopal Raj Kumar

      Derek is ‘right’ in saying what he said because the same section that allows for the appointment of mayor also allows for the appointment of councillors, and the power to make those appointments is vested with the state government.

      Also under the Act, the mayor is considered a councillor (with limited veto power over the other councillors) and there’s no mention whatsoever that the mayor’s position must be given to a public service department officer.

      Regards.

      • Thank you for you response. But is the Act silent on the question of the position being one that may not be filled by a public service officer? Or is there an express provision that prohibits the appointment of a public service department officer to the position?

        There is an issues to be dealt with here and it is this. The position of mayor and of councillors by definition are public service positions. And unless expressly stated otherwise in the Act, they are by definition public service positions.

        The problem I think you and Derek are confronted with is whether these positions should be gazetted positions within the public service or more importantly whether they be positions to be filled by federal or state public servants.

        In truth there are no prohibitions on federal or state public servants filling such vacancies or being appointed to them.

        • KW Mak says:

          @ Gopal Raj Kumar

          I didn’t say that there are prohibitions against public service department officers filling the position. Indeed, if the Selangor government wanted to, the councillors themselves could be PSD officers.

          In the same vein, there’s also no prohibition against having a private citizen be a councillor. There’s also no prohibition that the position of mayor can be held by a private citizen like yourself.

          Regards.

          • Don’t take it too personally. Your comments do not clearly state your position or the position you hold that is critical of the council and the state.

            Not everyone or anyone who desires can be a mayor or councillor. It requires a specific qualification to be able to become a holder of either of these positions.


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