THE Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) recently received a memorandum from the All Petaling Jaya, Selangor Residents Association Coalition (Apac). Apac has demanded that MBPJ does not take action to tear down the boom gates and barricades that have sprung up all over PJ.
(Pic by cjung / sxc.hu) The time frame given to MBPJ to take no action was two years, “or until such time the relevant acts pertaining to the boom gates are amended by the Federal Government or until the police can guarantee the same standards of safety achieved by the boom gates/guarded system”.
“These are the wishes of the majority,” the memorandum stated. Regardless of the need for these barricades, that last sentence is wrong on so many levels.
For example, the majority’s expressed wishes is manifested in the Barisan Nasional federal government. This is the same government that gazettes the federal laws that the country must follow, whether the majority of residents in PJ like it or not.
Additionally, boom gates are a temporary solution to the rising crime rate within urban areas. Indeed, the public should be angry that their taxes are not being well spent and they are forced to fork out additional cash every month to ensure their own security.
Of course, waiting for the authorities to get their act together may be wishful thinking. And taking proactive measures is better than seeing criminals run rampant in one’s neighbourhood.
(Pic by L Joo / Wiki commons)
Still, let’s take away emotion from the equation for a moment, and look at the facts.
MBPJ councillors have sat down with legal advisers from various government agencies to discuss the boom gate issue. All these agencies have pointed out the numerous sections of different laws that tell us that boom gate structures are illegal.
Even the Housing and Local Government Ministry, in trying to come up with a “legal solution” without amending present laws, stipulates consent from all residents before a community can be gated. This, of course, has been much to the displeasure of the majority that are supportive of the gated scheme.
The same laws that prevent the barricading of roads with boom gates also make it illegal for restaurants to put tables and chairs on the road.
No one bothered to enforce this until a car accident in 2003 claimed the life of Nur Suhaila Tajudin. The accident caused the authorities to state that all tables and chairs placed on roads are illegal, and that restaurants would be penalised for doing so. It was a knee-jerk reaction for the government to distance itself from any responsibility.
Many years later, the painful lesson has been forgotten. Tables and chairs are still being placed on the roadside. Sporadic enforcement by the local councils happens whenever public complaints are received.
Coming back to the issue of the boom gates. I honestly wonder whether the residents who paid to erect the barricades would remain unwavering in their support should an accident occur at one of these barricades. Will the residents pool their resources together to help fund a legal defence for the resident association chairperson, just as they pooled their resources to set up the barricades? Will the chairperson, in defending his or her decision, call upon the neighbours that paid for the barricade to be held equally responsible?
My telling of this cautionary tale is not meant as a threat. It is simply to ensure that the residents who signed the memorandum understand the risks they are exposing themselves to.
Fnally, while Apac should be commended for mobilising resident groups, their efforts fall short of an actual long-term solution. Their petition only looks at keeping up their illegal barricades indefinitely.
Guard hired by residents to boost security on their street
Indeed, the resident groups should be writing more memorandums to various government agencies. For example, the Housing and Local Government Ministry should be petitioned to table legal amendments to empower the local council to legally set up boom gates.
Perhaps the Finance Ministry should be petitioned to table a budget that has enough resources devoted to the police force to enable them to run efficiently and effectively. A request to divert a portion of the budget allocated for the Defence Ministry to the Home Ministry seems fair.
Or if we accept the fact that criminals are born out of desperation because they cannot find jobs that can help them survive within an urban environment, a memorandum could be written to the Human Resource Ministry. Ask the ministry to implement a minimum wage that would allow urbanites to live off the salaries they earn.
The suggested government agencies to be petitioned are certainly better equipped to provide long-term solutions, yet resident groups seem reluctant to take the matter up officially. Is it fear of being singled out as anti-establishment? Is it the fear of having the police boycott their neighbourhood?
Whatever the case, the residents are applying pressure on the one government agency that cannot give them the answer they want, and the fact remains that the majority isn’t always right.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak believes that Petaling Jaya is one of the few cities in the world where Global Positioning System or GPS can’t be used reliably. A GPS device would simply tell drivers to go straight into a barricade set up by residents.
Read previous Ampersand columns
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