Categorised | Columns

Superheroes needed in MBPJ

Superhero? (© Julien Tromeur | Sxc.hu)

Playing hero? (© Julien Tromeur | Sxc.hu)

SOMETIMES, I get accused of playing hero when I go public with issues. The accusations stem from the notion that I supposedly do not go through official channels to resolve matters and that I’m only interested in the publicity that the issue generates.

Are such accusations true? Perhaps the best way to answer this is with a story of what happens when I try using official channels to resolve issues.

Billboard site inspections

In January 2009, I was asked to inspect proposed billboard sites with Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) technical officers and a billboard company representative.

The request came via phone, and I was made to understand that councillors participating in these site visits were part of a sub-committee known as the billboard site-inspection committee. One such visit, which was done the following month, was reported by theSun‘s Terrence Fernandez.

Being relatively new to the job then, I did not suspect anything amiss and went for two such site visits. It was only when I started learning more about how council proceedings worked that I realised the so-called billboard site-inspection committee was suspect.

Despite checking through meeting minutes, I could find no record that a billboard site-inspection sub-committee was officially formed. The records only show that a billboard sub-committee was agreed on in October 2008. Councillor Derek Fernandez was listed as chairperson but there was no mention of who the committee members were.

It was after I discovered this that I declined further invitations to conduct site visits and argued about the committee’s legality in mid-2009.

Unsolicited allowance

I was then told that the reason the committee did not need to be officially established was that councillors were meant to voluntarily conduct these site visits.

My insistence that this was improper led to the formation of an official billboard site-inspection sub-committee with the members clearly named. I declined to be part of this committee.

Payment for voluntary services?

Payment for voluntary services?

In October 2009, however, I received a RM300 cheque as payment for the two site visits I conducted. I returned the cheque and queried why the council was paying me when the site visits, prior to the sub-committee’s official formation, were supposedly voluntary.

The long wait

After waiting four months for a reply, I sent out a reminder in February this year that I was still waiting for an answer to my previous letter.

The second cheque

The second cheque

Deputy Mayor Puasa Md Taib replied a month later, with a new cheque attached since the first one had expired. He stated that there was nothing wrong with the payment because I was considered a member of the billboard sub-committee “formed” in October 2008, which essentially had the mandate to conduct such site visits.

I once again returned the cheque. This time, I stated in very clear terms that I was never part of the billboard sub-committee, was never invited to any of the meetings, and never received any of the meeting minutes from this sub-committee.

I also asked for evidence that stated where and when I was appointed into this committee and for all the billboard sub-committee meeting minutes as my attendance or absence would be recorded if I had indeed been part of this committee.

This time, I was given documents pertaining to the site inspection visits I conducted back in 2009. I replied that my request was for the billboard sub-committee meeting minutes of 2008 and not documentary evidence of our site inspections.

There was no response again for months.

No minutes

Page 1 of letter (click to see larger image)

Page 1 of letter (click to see larger image)

Alas, tired of the wait, I formally requested for the meeting minutes at the MBPJ full board meeting in July 2010.

With my request now out in the open, the officers took three weeks to give me two CDs that contained the video recording for two public hearings on billboards that were conducted in late 2008. Again, this documentation was not what I had asked for.

I went back to the MBPJ full board in August and said I wanted the meeting minutes while brandishing all the letters I had written on the matter.

Page 2 of letter (click to see larger image)

Page 2 of letter (click to see larger image)

It was then that the former MBPJ town planning department director Sharipah Marhani Syed Ali revealed that there were no minutes for the 2008 meetings.

Playing hero

It is evident that more questions remain unanswered each time I get an official response. Clearly, there is no assurance that a satisfactory official response is ever forthcoming, or even a response in many cases. Hence following up month after month becomes an exercise in perseverance and/or futility.

Page 3 of letter (click to see larger image)

Page 3 of letter (click to see larger image)

I tell this story not because I want a public answer to my question about the billboard site-inspection sub-committee and the use of rate-payer’s money to pay councillors for “voluntary” work in an unofficial committee. I tell this story in response to critics who think that going public about an issue is about playing hero.

MBPJ councillor KW Mak loves comic book superheroes. He would like to be like Superman but that, like his critics’ jabs about him, is just wishful thinking.

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18 Responses to “Superheroes needed in MBPJ”

  1. harry porter says:

    You are not the first person in this job. [My guess is that the procedures had been previous done by some other committee].

    [Maybe] they thought you would sue them for not reimbursing you for your work? The best is to go to the meeting and set matters straight [...]

    • KW Mak says:

      @ harry porter

      1. How is going into a meeting suppose to resolve things if there are no meeting minutes?

      2. How am I supposed to ask proper questions when I’m not given the proper documents to peruse through first?

      3. The officers are protected by law from lawsuits, unless they are purposefully negligent. They do not need to hide anything unless they were indeed purposefully negligent.

      Regards.

  2. Andrew I says:

    They most likely think that you’re a masochist by now. Who, in their right minds, would make such a fuss over RM300, especially since scandals not amounting to billions are no longer considered hot topics?

    Well done.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ Andrew I

      This isn’t just an issue about RM300. The billboard industry involves millions of ringgit in revenue for the council. It is for this reason I’m demanding that the process of approving these billboards be totally accountable and transparent, if only to prevent possible abuse of the system for personal gain.

      Regards.

      • Andrew I says:

        Whatever it takes. Someone has to show that they mean business. Corruption breeds because of lackadaisical attitudes toward governance. What’s the point of having procedures if they’re not being followed?

        Go for it.

        • KW Mak says:

          “Someone has to show that they mean business.”

          Supposing each person can only say this once, I wonder how many times people can say it until there isn’t “someone else” left anymore to say it?

          Hehe.

      • Kong Kek Kuat says:

        @ KW Mak

        I have always wondered and suspected but am never quite sure how you manage to do it, i.e. writing the kind of articles you normally write while remaining on the inside. I’m surprised that a superhero like you could have lasted for as long as you have on the inside.

        I’m not being sarcastic here. Anyone who dares question anything is a hero in Malaysian terms; anyone who dares defy anyone is a superhero. I wonder if they already decided on a way to get rid of you even before you even wrote your first public essay in these columns here on TNG.

        I, too, love comics. I grew up on Marvel. But Malaysia ain’t no Marvel world, mate. I personally would´ve left [the council] before the first Raya of my job. But that is not to take away anything from you on what you have done. [...] The fact that I like you without having met you means that you are doing the right thing.

        • Andrew I says:

          “The fact that I like you without having met you means that you are doing the right thing.”

          I couldn’t have put it better myself.

          The fact is, a lot of politicians are legends in their own minds. Other than that, they pay for their following.

          • KW Mak says:

            @ Andrew I / Kong Kek Kuat

            Thank you for the kind words.

            I wish I could do more, but I am not so powerful as the mythical superhero. Nor do I have the gift to promise a brighter tomorrow if only the masses would lap up my every word.

            Regards.

  3. Spiritual realist says:

    It doesn’t matter what the sum is. The sad thing is that many internal processes are usually geared to make things look like there is due process, when it is in fact just a more sophisticated way to mask wrongdoings.

    • Andrew I says:

      And God knows we’ve witnessed quite a few of those. We just have to try to unwarp those who have been warped.

  4. Mikazuki says:

    This starting to sound like a case from The X-Files (MBPJ style) “The Truth Is Out There” – but it seems you will never get the truth. Or maybe now you will…

  5. Lau Weng San says:

    I agree that all committees and sub-committees formed by the council must have regular meetings, and minutes must be kept. I have attended a few MBPJ meetings, and each time there are minutes taken and presented during the next meeting. I hope Mak will get his answer at the end of the day.

  6. yong woo chuan says:

    When meetings are conducted and recorded, they are not done in anticipation of replying to your queries sometime in the future. So it is not easy to go through the files to find answers you want. It is easy to sit down and start listing queries that come to your mind, but to get answers to all your disparate questions, many files of many different meetings over a period of time have to be dug up and answers summarised to your satisfaction. Also decisions are not made and finalised with a snap of the fingers. They are probably made and refined along the way. I sense that your intention of asking for the records is to find fault. So no answer will satisfy you. Why don’t you do the hard work and pore through the records yourself? After all, you are a councillor.

    • KW Mak says:

      @ yong woo chuan

      I did pore through the records myself. I suggest you reread the article before making an inaccurate statement.

      The fact remains that the powers of a local council is limited to what the laws prescribes it, and if the local council conducts its operations without following what the law prescribes, then it is my duty to question the process.

      Regardless of your doubts about my actions, I am clear in my conscience and the fact remains that my responsibility is to the thousands of PJ residents who pay their assessment.

      Regards.

  7. ssr says:

    I retired after serving a council for 30 years. The thing is that [...] the right hand does not know what the left is doing. [...] Nobody takes the trouble to go to the ground to check things. A council’s sole function is to ensure that the residents who are the ratepayers are given services (garbage collection, roads and a clean environment) that are of quality. Instead, after PR came into power, the same [persons] are there and sadly nothing changes.

    Mr Mak, you don’t need a superhero … what you need is a balanced civil service [...]

  8. KW Mak says:

    Sorry to plug this post on an unrelated topic, but the comment section for my previous article on the PJ Old Town leasehold / freehold issue is off.

    The Section 4 Rukun Tetangga will be doing a signature campaign for the leasehold / freehold issue for Section 4 residents at 8pm on Dec 18 at the Section 4 RT Centre, Jalan 4/47 (opposite the Campbell Soup Factory).

    For details on the leasehold / freehold issue, read http://www.thenutgraph.com/leasehold-freehold/.

    For details on the signature campaign, read http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2010/12/10/central/7592011&sec=central.

    Do note that there is a slight error in the article, which states that the event is on Dec 15 instead of Dec 18.


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