(© L Joo / Wiki Commons)
PETALING JAYA (PJ) and other townships have been facing an issue involving the emergence of gated communities in recent years, with many differing views on whether this should be allowed or not.
Crime is something the police needs to tackle, but with the rising number of cases and the inability of the police to cope with the problem, the public have taken matters into their own hands. Residential communities have erected illegal barricades and placed large drums and other heavy obstacles on roads to create artificial barriers and allow for easier monitoring of access to their housing areas.
The Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) has had lengthy discussions on this matter. The elected representatives are mostly in favour of allowing the gates to exist, primarily due to the security concerns that are not adequately addressed by the police.
While it is politically convenient to sanction these barricades and boom gates, the law specifically disallows the blocking of roads except under very specific circumstances. Some examples of permissible temporary road blocks are those set up by the police and blocks erected during the operation hours of a gazetted marketplace or the celebration of a religious festival.
Cause and effect
While such gated residential areas help to address the local security needs, there are problems that most communities do not consider.
These issues include the rights of individual house owners who don’t want to pay the security fee and whose access to their own houses has thus been made difficult by the hired security guards. Another problem is the difficulty faced by local council service providers in carrying out their duties, such as trimming the trees, replacing faulty street lights or paving the roads, because access to the area is denied or made difficult.
On the issue of facing difficult access to one’s own home, the argument that the complaint is filed by a minority of the residents doesn’t hold water. A person’s right to access his/her own home takes precedence, regardless of any rules that the rest of the residents come up with to limit access to those who do not pay security service charges.
Simply put, we are solving one problem by creating other problems when we allow this kind of gated communities.
Changing the law
There are also advocates who want the laws changed to enable such gated communities to exist legally. After all, there are in existence legal gated communities like Aman Suria in Kelana Jaya, Selangor.
However, the argument does not take into account the fact that the entire compound of a planned gated community is considered private property. The owners who purchase houses in a planned gated community do so knowing they are contractually required to pay maintenance fee to the property management, much like how stratified properties operate.
Guard hired by residents to help boost security on their street
To implement something along these lines now on an existing non-planned gated community would be a nightmare exercise. Legislators would have to work out a comprehensive plan to address the issues I raised earlier and the issue of standardising the intersecting laws with regards to public utilities, land ownership and gazetted town plans.
As I said earlier, the laws governing the closure of roads are not the problem and changing national laws to deal with an urban problem can have even bigger implications.
The only real way to resolve all these complications is for the police to provide better service in maintaining security. When security is maintained, all the issues arising from illegally built barricades will disappear as these structures would no longer be needed.
To support this solution, MBPJ has allocated RM5 million in next year’s budget to hire and equip an auxiliary police force that would help patrol the streets of PJ as well as help with traffic control duties. Whether or not MBPJ will go ahead with the idea depends entirely on the Ministry of Home Affairs giving the green light.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak feels that the one element that is missing in most government agencies today is management, without which the promises from politicians from all sides of the divide would continue to come across to the public as mere rhetoric.
Read previous Ampersand columns
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