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Tales from a Councillor: Gotong-royong and school affairs

MY encounter with ratepayers sometimes leaves me with the impression that the phrase “public servant” is a very apt descriptor for local councillors. There are no morals here, save those that readers choose to interpret for themselves.


The bright, sunny morning was perfect weather for the day’s planned activity. Though not a morning person, I made it a point to wake up early that Saturday to visit an upper middle-class neighbourhood where a fellow councillor had organised a gotong-royong.

Gathered at the site were a half a dozen council workers, a few journalists, the councillor who organised the event and about six residents who introduced themselves as members of the local residents’ association.

I had expected more residents to turn up to help with the cleaning up of the messy copse of trees and bushes that was a breeding ground for mosquitoes in the neighbourhood. But I was told there would be no more residents joining us.

Indeed, there weren’t many neighbours who came out of their houses that day to even see what all the commotion was about.

Mmmm, curry puffs (©Gary Tamin /

Work started with council workers fogging the area, followed by the trimming of trees using a crane. Several other workers were busy hacking away the foliage on the ground.

Meanwhile, the residents’ association members sat in the shaded porch of a nearby house, sharing gossip while having tea and a curry puff or two. But my attention was with the few council workers who were doing all the work.

Once the first tree was trimmed and the crane team proceeded to trim the next tree, the senior officer who was supervising the work began removing the branches into the lorry bin. Not in the mood for idle chat, I joined the officer.

After several minutes, my fellow councillor helped out with the clearing too, as did the rest of the council workers.

By noon, we had finished clearing up the place. The residents’ association members finally came out and thanked us for organising the gotong-royong. Drenched in sweat and too tired to give a reply, I only returned a weak smile.

Before leaving the scene, I thanked the council workers for a job well done.

Association with the opposition

The Parent Teacher Association (PTA) chairperson had approached me for help with some overgrown trees in need of trimming within the school compound.

The school could not obtain the necessary funds from the Education Ministry to get the work done. So, I arranged for some of the council’s landscape department officers to visit the site to assess the cost of the tree trimming and to meet the headmistress and other PTA members.

After the survey, the officers informed me that the job could be done. But either the state assemblyperson or I would have to pay for it with the council’s funds allocated for community works.

I then requested for the headmistress to write to me officially so that I could request for funds to be used. Proper procedures had to be followed, after all, for the sake of accountability.

The headmistress said she would rather not be seen to have anything to do with a federal opposition party. She then proceeded to cite the ability of the previous local councillors in getting such things done without the need for official letters.

Not wanting to argue the point that the previous councillors did not have the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) breathing down their necks for the slightest misdeed, I asked the PTA chairperson to write in on behalf of the school instead. Favicon

DAP-appointed MBPJ councillor KW Mak sometimes wonders where this path he has chosen will take him. He would also like to report that the auntie who complained about the hefty water bill listened to his advice. She found a leaking pipe in her house, fixed it, and is back to paying normal rates for her water supply once more.

See also:
Tales from a Councillor: Chicken Rice Wars and The Thin Yellow Line 
Tales from a Councillor: Bad Company

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6 Responses to “Tales from a Councillor: Gotong-royong and school affairs

  1. Andrew I says:

    The question you should ask yourself is how they became upper middle class in the first place. (Hint: it wasn’t because of any communal concerns.)

    Have you not noticed, in certain instances, that the bigger and newer the car, the more stupid the driver seems to be? And the reluctance to remove those polystyrene wrappings around the cushions, which, presumably, is to preserve the showroom status of the car?

    Gotong-royong. Are you serious?

  2. Cadraver says:

    Sometimes your stories seem like such a tragic comic piece that they almost sound like fiction. Well, you do know what people say about how strange the truth can be at times.

    Nevertheless, a good read, and thanks for taking care of our city.

  3. Andrew I says:

    PS And have you ever seen a car being feather dusted before?

  4. KW Mak says:

    @Andrew I

    It is not my intention to cause prejudice against people who live in upper-middle class neighbourhoods nor cause any preconceptions that all upper-middle class residents behave in the manner in which I experienced. The story was only one aspect of my experiences.

    As to whether I have noticed the behaviour that you pointed out, it is irrelevant in the performance of my duties as a councillor. When I took the oath to serve, it was to serve all.

    Excerpt from my old article:

    “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-appointed 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.”

  5. Andrew I says:

    My intention was never to question your beliefs or your commitment as a DAP-appointed councillor, and I sincerely apologise if you perceived that I have done so.

    As you quite rightly disclaim at the beginning, there are no morals here, save those that readers choose to interpret for themselves.

    Humour is risky because it’s usually at someone else’s expense, but given some of the experiences I have mentioned, I wouldn’t go up to the person to highlight them.

    Humour is an excellent medium of education. You can help people to reconsider their attitudes without mentioning any names. Who knows, it might even save them an embarrassing moment or two.

  6. KW Mak says:

    Ah… I think I misunderstood because you said, “Gotong-royong. Are you serious?”
    Anyway, I too apologise for the misunderstanding.

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