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Tales from a Councillor: Residents, developers and mechanics

PART of my work as a Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) councillor involves mediating disputes between resident groups and various parties. From experience, things are not always what they appear to be. There are no morals to these stories, save those that readers interpret for themselves.

(Lamp by Dan Edwards; yin-yang by hisks /
The big payoff

It was the third meeting to address the issues and complaints caused by an upcoming development in the neighbourhood. At the meeting were council officers, officers from other government agencies and utility companies, the developer and residents.

Going through the list of residents’ complaints, we discussed collectively how best we could resolve the problems. These ranged from uneven roads to the need to move a lamp post because the light would affect one house’s feng shui, even though the lamp post was across the street from the house.

The developer was most accommodating and offered compromise solutions for several issues, but kept quiet otherwise throughout the meeting.

After two hours, which included accusations against the council for not being responsible and for neglecting the neighbourhood, we wrapped up the meeting. We went through the list of actions that the authorities and the developer would undertake to address residents’ complaints except for the issue of the lamp post.

On the way out of the building, I struck up a conversation with the developer and we talked about politics and stuff. Just as we were about to go our separate ways, he let slip his frustration with the group of residents whom he said complained incessantly. I said that was to be expected, as residents are rarely happy with change in their neighbourhood.

“If the residents call for another meeting again, I will sue them,” said the developer. Taking out his file, he showed me a letter signed by several residents who promised not to raise any issue with the development in return for a six figure pay-off. His file also contained photocopies of the six figure cheques that were paid out to each one of those residents.

I pursed my lips to prevent myself from saying anything, and breathed in deep.

Servicing residents

The mamak restaurant was busy with more customers than usual that weekday morning. Waiting for my arrival was a group of low-cost-flat residents who had wanted me to help them resolve the issues that have gone unresolved for many years.

Leading the group was an elderly Malay Malaysian gentleman who gave me a list of issues that included damaged drains, uneven back lanes and pesky rats, among other things. I took notes on what the council could do and explained to the residents that some of the issues they were asking me to help resolve were not under the council’s jurisdiction.

Once the resident representatives were done with their complaints, I asked aloud if there was anyone else who wanted to raise any issue. Several more complaints came my way.

(Pic by David Boylan /
“They always rev the engines of the motorbikes they are fixing at the front of their shop! The smoke goes into my house because I live right on top! I have told them many times to stop doing this but they refuse to listen,” complained an elderly Chinese Malaysian man who wanted me to close down the shop.

I politely asked the elderly man to wait while I finished hearing out the rest of the residents. When the complaints were done, I asked the uncle to show me the mechanic shop. It was located just a few shops away from where we had tea. I walked into the mechanic shop and asked to speak to the taukay, who greeted me with a little apprehension as his eyes scrutinised the MBPJ uniform I was wearing.

Instead of scolding the boss, I explained the issue that the uncle was facing. I asked if it was possible for him to have all the revving of motorbikes done across the road as a compromise. After several moments, the boss agreed to the solution.

As we left the shop, the old man asked me why I didn’t exercise my powers and punish the mechanic on the spot. “I could have returned with enforcement officers and slapped him with a fine, but he is also your neighbour. At least I give him a fair warning and let him make amends so that you two can continue being neighbours. If the mechanic still revs the motorcycle engines in front of his shop after this, you tell me, okay?” I said as I slipped him my call card.

The elderly man accepted the explanation and went home. The other residents then whisked me off to tour the surrounding area to see for myself the problems they had told me about earlier.

MBPJ councillor KW Mak goes to bed with many secrets weighing heavily on his mind. He ends up having dreams about being caught in the middle of an argument between residents and developers. He is bemused by the dreams and wonders what they portend.

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

Tales from a Councillor: Bad Company

Tales from a Councillor: Taps
Tales from a Councillor: Gotong-royong and school affairs

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