Categorised | Columns

Tales from a Councillor: Karaoke blues

I AM often approached by people telling me about their woes and how they are unfairly treated by Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) officers.

There are no morals to this story, save those that readers interpret for themselves.

One side of the story

It was around 10pm when my phone rang. On the line was a karaoke operator crying foul that enforcement officers were unfairly carting away his equipment. Despite his repeated claims that he had applied for a licence and that an elected representative was helping him with the licensing approval, the enforcement operation proceeded as planned.

(Pic by v_rol /
Not knowing the full details of the matter, I said I would meet him together with the enforcement officer to see if we could sort it out. The next morning, the operator showed me several licence application forms. The application date was a little over two months old.

“The MBPJ should not have taken action while my application is pending! And why does it take them so long to approve a licence? I used to pay off the officers, but because YB (Yang Berhormat) said the licences were ready, I stopped paying them recently. So now they are taking it out on me!”

The complainant proceeded to decry how officers of a certain ethnic group were all useless, and that Chinese Malaysians — meaning I — should look after our own people.

“I got a state exco member to write a letter of support for my shop in Shah Alam, but I didn’t think I would need it here in PJ,” the operator said.

The other side

“This is the second time we raided them,” explained the enforcement officer. “They have been operating for some time even before they applied for the licence.”

The officer also explained that prior to the raid, the enforcement department had received numerous complaints from surrounding residents about the volume of the noise from the karaoke lounge.

“That is not a karaoke lounge,” retorted the karaoke operator. “We don’t serve drinks, and there are no GROs (guest relations officers). It is an institution of learning, where people go to practise their singing so they can take part in professional competitions. Some of the patrons even participate in state-level karaoke championships.”

(Pic by Tianbin Liu / Dreamstime)
The MBPJ officer replied that if it truly was a centre of learning, there would be classrooms and teachers and no booking of rooms. A centre of learning would also have strict operation hours. But the karaoke operator had flouted the regulations for operating hours numerous times by opening past 1am.

“If we did not take action, the public would accuse us of taking bribes,” said the officer. “They are already accusing us because after the first raid, the karaoke centre reopened and we left them alone for a few months pending their licence application.”

Not wanting to debate the matter further, the karaoke operator said he only wanted his equipment back, and hoped that the MBPJ would speedily approve his licence.

Much to the operator’s horror, he could only collect his confiscated karaoke machines if he paid a RM10,000 fine. He also could not reopen the shop until the licence was issued, which was unlikely because of the numerous complaints against the shop.

Leaving the room, the karaoke operator appealed to me once more to help out a fellow Chinese Malaysian. He believed that surely as a councillor, I could pull some strings.

MBPJ councillor KW Mak is intentionally leaving the story unfinished because he would like some reader opinion as to what they would have done in his shoes.

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10 Responses to “Tales from a Councillor: Karaoke blues

  1. The fee can be waived if he has indeed followed the legal procedures correctly, but he is not to have his equipment back until the license is fully granted. In the meantime the premise needs to be monitored so that it is not conducting illegal entertainment activity under the radar.

  2. balansarawak says:

    You break the law, you pay the price. There should be no racial favour.

  3. Andrew I says:

    All that lip-syncing during the 80s made a lot of people think they could sing and look great at the same time. If anything, karaoke has put some reality into that notion. Part of the appeal of karaoke singing lies in the fact that people like the sound of their own voice… literally. Logically speaking, the louder it is, the more people you will be able to share this gift with. Now isn’t that what life is all about, sharing?

    I don’t have a printable suggestion for you, KW, because when it comes to certain things, karaoke being one of them, I could be a lot more Frank than Simon. Sorry. :-p

  4. Suresh says:

    The first point is the business should NOT operate if there is no license.

    But then again if the process of obtaining license are not efficient with known requirements and approval process, the business does not need to break the law.

    The latter has to be resolved first before solving/preventing the former.

  5. Sans says:

    The operator is clearly circumventing the spirit of the law. Institute of Learning? One thing is not clear, what licence is he applying for? Institute of Learning or as a karaoke operator.

    He is in the wrong, how can you operate pending a licence, however he also needs to cari makan, so why is approval taking so long? Can you imagine being out of work for 2 months waiting for an approval?

    The MBPJ needs to give its decision on the licence and that’s it. This situation/limbo arose because of the delay but also reflects the culture and attitude of people who don’t follow the rules.

    Racial solidarity to circumvent the rules? I don’t think that is in your remit as a councillor.

  6. KW Mak says:

    @ Kate Green, Zombie Shooter

    You have the makings of a good councillor. I’ll put in a good word for you if you are interested. 😉

    @ Andrew I

    It is a good thing karaoke isn’t a passion of mine. 🙂

    @ Suresh

    There are problems with MBPJ management, as I have highlighted before in a previous article:

    @ Sans

    I am just narrating a story of what happened – it does not mean that I support the circumventing of rules, whatever the reasoning may be.

  7. Colin Wong says:

    Councillor Mak, I am Malaysian first, Chinese second. The first by choice and the second by divine predestination. Hence, I choose a better Malaysia. Start with telling the karaoke operator that there is no race play here. You want to do business, you follow the rules. On the other hand, make sure that MBPJ is also following the rules and service levels promised to the public and business community.

    The line “take care of your own kind” stinks and if the Chinese [Malaysians] parrot that line, they are no better than the Umno racists that we are trying to unseat. I have spent years taking care of people not of my own “kind”, and I can tell you that it pays. It makes society a better place when resources are directed based on need.

    I have often been told, if we go on a needs-based approach, the Malay [Malaysians] will gain. To that I say, so what? Are they not our fellow country[persons]? If we are given a choice to choose to help our own or be colour blind, and by strength of principles and character choose to be colour blind, the recipients will reciprocate.

    I pray the day will come when all Malaysian help each other based on need.

  8. Andrew I says:

    @ Colin Wong

    Exactly my sentiments. Most of my barbs have been directed at those from my own race. When have you ever heard a Malaysian Chinese politician chastising his own? It’s always about business and how to get more. Never mind about inflation and how that will effectively cancel out any real gains. In fact, it’s never mind about anything outside of your own house.

    And then they have the gall to talk about migration. Let’s not deny we haven’t all heard that racial justification before.

    You can blame all your bad experiences on others, but do not forget they had some from you too, and unless we start to sincerely contribute to this country as a whole, don’t expect real change anytime soon.

  9. David says:

    The law comes first. Admitting to offering bribes, getting “favour” via letters of support, calling it an “institute of learning” and requesting for “take care of own kind”… not exactly the things you’d want to champion. It’s common sense that to operate a business legally, you need a licence. Plain and simple.

    On the other hand, why the heck does it take months to decide on an application? That’s unacceptable.

  10. dominik says:

    Is the place he is operating in in the vicinity of a housing area? If he is operating in a commercial area, there shouldn’t be any problem in getting a licence if he is clean (no drugs/GRO) in doing business.

    Most of the time, it is the waiting time to get the licence. The MBPJ should give a reply within one month to say whether a licence is approved or not. If not, reasons and/or objections from residents around the housing area should be provided, instead of the MBPJ keeping quiet, which is typical of a government department.

    Anyone doing business wants things to move fast because time is money. I agree that race should not be a criterion for helping. Councillors should be fair and help ALL Malaysians, NOT a particular race.

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