THIS instalment of Ampersand is on my experiences dealing with issues unrelated to my work as a councillor, but which get directed to me anyway. As always, there are no morals behind these stories, save the ones readers chose to interpret for themselves.
Bath and taxes
The call for maghrib prayers was still resounding when I received a phone call from an irate resident. No sooner had I picked up the phone than I was verbally assaulted.
“What are you all doing? Why is there no water in my house? You all don’t know how to make announcements in advance, is it? The least you all can do is give me time to prepare for the water cut! I work very hard to pay my taxes, but when I come home, I can’t even take a bath!”
(Pic by zeafonso / sxc.hu)Unperturbed, I asked the caller where he lived, promising that I would get back to him in 10 minutes once I found out the answer to his questions. Thankfully, stored in my cell phone was the contact number of the Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) public relations officer whom I used to contact back when I was still a journalist.
After exchanging pleasantries with her, I explained the problem and she promised to revert with details once she got them. Five minutes later, she returned my call to explain that a main pipe had burst early in the morning where the complainant lived, and that repair works were being done.
“We expect repairs to be finished soon, but supply won’t be restored until midnight. If the person needs water supply urgently, he can call our toll-free number and we can arrange for a water truck for the neighbourhood,” said the PR officer.
Offering my thanks to my old contact, I rang the complainant back, explained the situation, and provided the toll-free number for him to call. The complainant said thanks.
There were some two dozen residents gathered that Saturday morning. I was requested to give a talk to these low-cost flat residents about the requirement to form a Joint Management Body (JMB) under the law, and how the residents could better manage their own property.
Even before I began, I noticed that many of the residents looked irate. I began with an introduction of myself and asked if the residents knew about the need to form a JMB.
No sooner had the question left my lips, a resident moved to the microphone to ask why the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) wanted to help absolve the developer from their responsibilities.
Perplexed, I asked the resident to explain, as I was only requested to give a talk and had no idea what issues the residents were facing. The complaints followed, from the poor finishing of their flats to broken drains. These things must first be rectified before the residents would agree to form the JMB, they said.
(Pic by mzacha / sxc.hu)Since I was also a local government representative, the residents also wanted me to use “my connections” to get the other relevant agencies to explain why they were unfairly treated over their Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) sewerage bills.
“My IWK bill is RM18 while the houses around here are only paying RM2. What does the government think this place is? Do these flats here look like some luxury apartment? Why are we even charged this stupid bill when there is no service?” asked the resident, who received claps and cheers from the other residents.
Another resident called the Selangor government a liar for not providing the promised free first 20 cubic meters of water. I explained that the state government could not provide this facility because of the way Syabas bills stratified properties.
But the complainant was not interested in the “excuse” and said the government should deliver its promises. This got the person more applause and cheers.
All I could do that day was take down the list of complaints to forward to the relevant departments. I also promised to call for a meeting, most likely after Hari Raya Aidilfitri, between the residents and the relevant agencies to help answer the residents’ questions.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak was having dinner at a hawker stall when the aunty selling drinks brought up the issue of an exorbitant water bill from Syabas. After finishing his nasi goreng pattaya, he spent the next 10 minutes scrutinising the water bill and giving advice on how to detect water leaks in the aunty’s house. The aunty’s son, who ran a stall nearby, was adamant about blaming the meter reader, whom he perceived to be dishonest and lazy because of the reader’s race.
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