and its story
MPSJ must come clean, starting with YDP Hakim
Ever wonder where MPSJ president Hakim Borhan was throughout the controversy over the foodcourt recently being built on police reserved land in USJ8? Did he make a mistake in not objecting to the plan when it was tabled?
Posted on 01.58pm Oct 15, 2004
by usjXpress team
Subang Jaya, October 15:
Ever wonder where MPSJ president Hakim Borhan was throughout the controversy over the foodcourt recently being built on police reserved land in USJ8?
When Subang Jaya state assemblyman Lee Hwa Beng, who is also a 7th-year MPSJ councillor, stood up to defend the council by saying that only a Kebenaran Untuk Merancang was issued to the food court developer, nobody knew whether he was lying or sheer ignorant.
What's happening? Everybody seems to go ga-ga over the foodcourt approval process (All pictures courtesy of Nwatch.net.my)
The entire MPSJ machinery just played along with Lee, who said he obtained a "STOP-WORK" order, then a 'DEMOLITION ORDER" from none other than MPSJ itself.
But construction at the worksite continued throughout the first week of October until the day USJ residents staged a peaceful protest to demand the land be returned to its original plan for a full-fledged police station.
Subsequently, the deputy Internal Security Minister Noh Omar was the one who let the cat out on October 4 when he visited the work site.
"I would like to clarify that the developer had permission from MPSJ to carry out construction," he told The Star.
According to the press, a government approval has been given earlier to V Sat Intelligent Sdn Bhd, which applied to lease the land to build a foodcourt.
Berita Harian quoted Noh as saying the company obtained the approval from the Land Commissioner and MPSJ to lease the land for three years, starting September 1, 2003.
Sources familiar with the arrangement said the company was given the option to extend the lease for a further three years.
It was also reported in the press that V SAT Intelligent has been paying a RM15,000 monthly rent in the last two months. As a result, the contractor has moved in to take possession of the site and to start construction work.
What is the real story behind this? What role has MPSJ been playing on this issue all along?
This became a column topic for Dr Goh Ban Lee from University Sains Malaysia (USM) in theSun (October 11, 2004).
Dr Goh feels that while MPSJ got a black eye in the food court saga, it still has to come clean over the issue.
"The food court saga was a clear example of poor urban governance and bad town planning practice." Goh says.
"The news that the stop-work order was ignored is cause for concern but not surprising," Goh said.
"Non-compliance with municipal rules and regulations is a major weakness in urban governance in the country," he adds.
"Although it was reported that the project would be discontinued, it is important to demand clarification so that land reserved for important government services could be protected from being used for private business, even temporarily," Goh says.
Analysing the issue, Goh holds several parties to task for the poor urban governance related to the controversy:
- The Police: "The person in the police department who leased the land did an injustice to the residents."
- Land Developers: "It (the poor urban governance) also sent a bad message to land developers: beware, land set aside for police stations or any other service providers could be misused to make money for the organisations."
- Local Government: "The councillors and president of Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) neglected the interests of the residents and ratepayers of Subang Jaya when they gave the planning permission for a food court.
"They also gave the notion that land use decisions could be changed easily and with impunity."
Goh rates MPSJ as one of the better-run local authorities in the country. But in this case, he says MPSJ must come clean. "Those responsible should be held accountable as part of the national integrity campaign," he says.
Goh also questions the various bad decisions taken by MPSJ, for example:
- Did the municipal town planner brief the planning committee that the land was reserved for a police station?
- Why was the food court application on the agenda in the first place when it was clearly wrong?
- Was there pressure to table the proposed food court? Who were involved?
- If the town planner did provide proper briefing, what were the factors that influenced the councillors and president to approve the plan?
In addition, Goh also questions the accountability of the municipal council and its councillors relating to the approval process for the foodcourt:
- Subang Jaya ADUN Lee Hwa Beng, who is also an MPSJ councillor, has publicly stated that the food court was not suitable. But did he make a mistake in not objecting to the plan when it was tabled?
- Was he out-voted in the planning committee or the full council?
Goh reminds local councillors who want to be seen as champions of the people, or are beholden to developers, that their priorities are the rule of law and fairness.
Nevertheless, Goh does provide a saving grace for MPSJ.
"There might be nothing sinister in the approval of the food court. Councillors, being human, could make mistakes without malice," Goh says. "If so, a clarification would be reassuring."
Goh atttibutes the USJ residents for showing that vigilance and a will to fight for their rights can be effective in ensuring that neighbourhoods are protected, despite bad decisions of local councils.
He specially mentions that, besides going to the press and their wakil rakyat, the residents also made full use of the internet, including the very popular blog (www.jeffooi.com) to push their cause.
However, Goh also points out that there is an urgent need to educate Malaysians, including councillors and presidents, that compliance with municipal rules and regulations is the basic foundation of a clean, efficient and pleasant town.
QUESTIONED BY THE MASSES
Commenting on the same issue, Citizen-Nades (theSun, October 6) says what the USJ residents have achieved shouldn't be the end of the story yet.
He says "it is a true story and the principal actors are real-life individuals, whose decisions were rightly questioned by the masses".
Citizen-Nades gets down to the root of the matter: MPSJ and the Police.
"The manner in which land is leased or acquired is a perennial problem in urban areas. Where land is scarce, the price skyrockets and every piece of vacant land is being eyed as a potential money-spinner," he says.
He observes that the complaint from the residents was that USJ needs a bigger police station to cater for the growing population which has breached the 280,000 mark.
"Initial protests fell on the deaf ears of the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ), which issued the development order" he says.
In addition, Citizen-Nades also quotes Noh Omar as saying that "it has always been the government's policy on abandoned government land that companies will be allowed to rent it from us so that we can obtain revenue".
"The keyword seems to be 'revenue', but other factors should be taken into account," says Nades.
"If the construction of a food court causes traffic congestion and prevents ease of movement of police vehicles, revenue should never be a consideration" he adds.
And this is Nades' parting shots.
And here is the clincher: Did MPSJ take into account these issues before it even considered the application for a food court?
"Well, a happy ending but some questions remain unanswered" Nades says.
We reserve this to come from the MPSJ president, Hakim Borhan.
BACKGROUNDER: At a closed door meeting held at Pondok Polis USJ8 on October 4, the USJ 8 food court project was stopped for good after the developer, V SAT Intelligent Sdn Bhd, withdrew voluntarily.
The meeting was chaired by Deputy Home Minister Noh Omar. Also present at the closed-door meeting was Subang Jaya Assemblyman Lee Hwa Beng, Kelana Jaya MP Loh Seng Kok, Shah Alam OCPD ACP Abdul Wahab Embong, Subang Jaya Municipal Council deputy president Arpah Abdul Razak, residents representatives (Save Our Balai Action Committee) lead by Raymond Tan and police officials.
V Sat Intelligent Sdn Bhd was represented by its group managing director Badaruddin Zubairi.
Noh said a police station might be built at the site under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, which starts in 2006.
The current police post in USJ has under its jurisdiction an area with a population of over 260,000 and staff strength of only 38.
USJ police station: Guessing game goes on
What's your action plan, Hakim?
Foodcourt: 'Overwhelming objection'