PJ condominium residents association representatives vote unanimously to oppose Syabas’ new water rates
for condominiums, and give Appac the mandate to fight on their behalf (All pics by KW Mak)
UNITED we stand, divided we fall. It is the one adage I remind many of the residents associations I have helped.
Unity is instrumental in whatever we wish to accomplish. In my experience, the catalyst that brings about such unity is usually an outside and common enemy.
My example is the All Petaling Jaya Pro Action Committee (Appac) which is now, under the Registrar of Societies, the legally formed All Petaling Jaya Residents Association Coalition (Apac).
Unprecedented show of unity
In November 2005, the councillors of the then Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) unanimously passed an increase in assessment taxes without giving any details except the excuse that taxes had not been raised for more than 14 years and operation costs had gone up.
Liew Wei Beng
As a reporter then, I asked several residents association leaders for comments on the tax increase. Section 5 Residents Association president Edward Lee (now Bukit Gasing assembly representative) revealed that there were at least five associations within the PJ Selatan constituency that would publicly denounce the tax increase, in view of the rising cost of living due to an increase in fuel prices then. I suggested that he call up Taman Mayang Jaya Residents Association chairperson Liew Wei Beng, who was a community leader of sorts for several of the residents associations in the PJ Utara constituency.
Together with Mohd Umar Peer Mohd, a prominent community leader among the Indian Muslims in PJ Selatan, the initial small protest became an unprecedented united protest of 150 persons representing 35 resident groups and non-governmental organisations of Petaling Jaya.
In one voice, PJ residents protested against the tax increase, demanded that the council’s accounts be made public, and subsequently passed a motion of no confidence against then council president Datuk Ahmad Termizi Puteh for refusing to accede to the residents’ demands.
It would turn out to be a drawn-out war of words between the council and the newly formed coalition of residents associations.
The efforts of these community leaders inspired others. Eventually, anonymous sources leaked documents on the attempted privatisation of billboards, the exorbitant cost of the football club, and other scandals to these community leaders.
The assessment tax increase was not rescinded, but the football club was disbanded; the privatisation project did not take off; and the now Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) is more careful about how they deal with PJ residents.
Notice the lack of any political party involvement?
Duty to all
Lee is a life member of the DAP, but he did not organise the community under the party’s banner. Liew is a member of the MCA and a supporter of Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun, the former PJ Utara Member of Parliament (MP), but he did not capitalise on that fact. And Mohd Umar Peer was a special assistant to the former PJ Selatan MP, Datuk Donald Lim.
They were all politically affiliated, and yet they could put aside their differences for the sake of fighting under one consolidated banner, as the issue involved PJ ratepayers irrespective of party affiliation.
In that sense, they were true leaders who showed how ordinary residents can, despite their lack of any political party position, change things for the common good.
Lee taught me this lesson as he prepared to embark on his political journey prior to the 2008 general election: “Are opposition party members not Malaysian citizens? Just because they have a different view, it does not make their views irrelevant. They (opposition leaders) represent a minority of people who may have legitimate grievances, and it is because of that we must be impartial and serve [all].”
Lee was stressing the need for the MBPJ to listen to the views of the federal opposition parties of DAP, Parti Keadilan Rakyat and PAS.
Given that present circumstances have changed and that the opposition in Selangor is now the Barisan Nasional (BN), that view remains true. BN leaders are community leaders too, and hold a stake in our country’s future.
I strongly believe that regardless of party affiliation, those of us who choose to go into public service should do it for the good of all. Consequently, despite the fact that I am a DAP-appointee councillor to the MBPJ, I will not limit my aid to those who are aligned to DAP alone.
As for the assemblypersons and the MPs who were elected, I believe that once the elections are over, it is no longer important which party they belong to. What matters only is that they have a duty to everyone in their constituency — regardless of ethnicity, religion, social status, gender and political affiliation.
Since being made MBPJ councillor in July 2008, KW Mak has been working closely with the new Appac committee, which gives him as much hope for the future of Petaling Jaya as it does headaches with complaints aplenty.