IN the course of serving as a councillor in the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) for more than two years, I have been viewed as the “opposition” by some of my colleagues.
Though none have said this to me personally, they find other tongue-in-cheek ways of making it known. For example, one councillor who sat next to me during a meeting declared, “I’m sitting in the opposition bench.”
I suppose this viewpoint stems from the fact that I am often at odds with some of the decisions my fellow councillors make, especially when it comes to property development project approvals. Let me explain how.
Since my reputation for opposing project approvals precedes me, some property developers seek to negotiate privately with me in advance before their projects are brought to the objection-hearing stage. They are keen to show off their development blueprints and tell me the exorbitant amounts they wish to spend to upgrade the infrastructure of the surrounding neighbourhood.
To further strengthen their argument, they say that PJ is an aging township that needs to be redeveloped to help generate more economic activities.
When I state that their projects do not adhere to the requirements of statutory documents like the National Physical Plan, they will tell me that if they were to comply with all the rules, property prices would skyrocket.
They tell me that such cost-cutting measures only benefit the consumer, since the developer can pass on the savings.
What the developers fail to mention are the problems that property buyers inherit when rules are not followed. High-rise properties without strata-titles; non-issuance of Certificates of Fitness or Certificate of Completion and Compliance, which prevents legal occupancy of a building; and landslide tragedies that are brushed off as an act of God. These are among the common issues related to development projects that do not follow the rules.
These problems are not felt by the developers, who would have sold off the property and moved on to their next project, leaving the mess for the government to clean up.
It does not help that the government machinery is not a cohesive structure and often sends complainants on a wild goose chase. In fact, I have a litany of complaint letters and emails from irate buyers who feel victimised by an uncaring government system.
Invariably, my stand on issues would generate complaints to the DAP higher-ups about how I do not “toe the line” whenever I object to requests for approvals. Many even question my loyalty to the Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
The argument goes along the lines of how I am working counter to PR policies by objecting to development projects that other councillors approve of.
The DAP higher-ups have thus far not seen the need to reprimand me, while some have even messaged me their support. Regardless, I think it is best that I state clearly where my loyalties are exactly.
One of the core concepts that the PR was founded on is to serve the public, and the term “Ketuanan Rakyat” that the PR is so fond of saying at political rallies is supposed to reflect this.
Similarly, when I was appointed as a councillor, I took an oath to serve the public, and I have no intention of breaking that oath. But somehow, serving the public’s interest by adhering to the rules appears to put me in the “opposition”.
KW Mak is a DAP-appointed councillor in MBPJ who believes that the truest test of a good government is its ability to stand up to public scrutiny.