the Sun: MPSJ’s decision glaringly against public interest

I have briefed party leaders yesterday that DAP Selangor would certainly put a cabin next to the Umno cabin, not to follow the footsteps of the arrogant Umno warlords but just to force an issue.We will find out how the Selangor MB and the YDP of MPSJ would react after that. What we wanted was very simple and straighforwrad- remove all the 40 illegal cabins immediately. No one, including Umno, should be above the laws!We salute the Sun for highlighting the matter prominently in their reports.

SPEAK UP! :: theSun Says

Restore faith in local government
It is appalling that the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) has decided to issue temporary permits for cabins that are illegally placed on public land. Thismeasure is so glaringly against the public interest that it must be condemned as a gross abuse of the people’s trust, which the local government is duty-bound to uphold. The decision should be rescinded without delay and a complete review of the council’s operating procedures undertaken to restore public confidence in the integrity of its representative and administrative systems.The council’s decision has a direct bearing on the illegal placement of cabins on a public playground in Bandar Bukit Puchong in the municipality, which became an issue recently when residents protested against the forceful occupation of the playground by the local Umno branch.However, there are more than 40 other cabins belonging to political parties and others illegally occupying public land under MPSJ’s jurisdiction, and similar questions about the local government’s abdication of its regulatory role arise in these cases too.

For the rule of law to be upheld, there must firstly be a public inquiry into the basis for the council’s approval of the encroachment of public land. It is a matter of grave concern that the local authority that is tasked with ensuring the orderly administration of public affairs has taken the highly questionable step of regularising the illegal occupation of public land in blatant disregard for land administration norms.

This sets a dangerous precedent for the use of illegal force in public matters that will have a damaging ripple impact on the quality of governance in the country. Indeed, this is a black day in the annals of the public administration of the nation.

Further, the circumstances under which the decision on the land occupancy permits was taken exposes the unaccountability of the local government for its actions in blatant disregard for the public interest. Indeed, the haughty language reportedly used by Puchong assemblyman Datuk Satim Diman, who is also an MPSJ councillor, that the party branch’s actions were beyond scrutiny signals a serious breakdown in governance, paving the way for grassroots politicians to dictate terms to the administration. This is a matter that deserves the serious attention of all quarters that are interested in arresting the breakdown in accountability that it signifies.

The importance of corrective action to undo the damage to democratic representation at the local government level cannot be overemphasised.

Updated: 06:12PM Mon, 19 Mar 2007
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EXTRA! :: Comment & Analysis
Silently condoning a wrong
R. Nadeswaran
On Wednesday, the cabinet met in Putrajaya to consider and discuss issues and policies that affect all Malaysians. Views and opinions were exchanged and a consensus may have been reached on several issues.Some 30km away as the crow flies, staff and councillors of the Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) also met on the same day to discuss issues that affect the people. It was a pre-council meeting, where councillors make all the decisions to be rubber-stamped without discussion when the full council meeting – which is open to the media and ratepayers – takes place at the end of the month.Instead of a healthy exchange of views, the attendees were given a lecture of sorts – on how to deal with residents and their complaints.

Umno is the government. How dare you take down Umno flags? or words to that effect were used by the “lecturer” when he challenged the council staff.

Most councillors sat as if they never heard anything, not even offering their views or correcting the lecturer’s misconception.

The flags he referred to were those hoisted on flagpoles beside a cabin placed in a playground in Bandar Bukit Puchong 3, which acts as the office of the local Umno branch.

The “lecturer” in this instance was neither an expert nor an academic on local councils, but Puchong state assemblyman Datuk Satim Diman, who also sits as a councillor.

He made these remarks following objections by residents to cabins sitting on playgrounds.

Following this “lecture” and behind-the-scenes manoeuvre, the council has “legalised” what it had initially deemed as illegal.

Instead of maintaining the month-long grace period for the removal of the cabin, MPSJ has now given the cabin an annually renewable permit to squat on the playground.

But does the council have the right to issue this permit? The playground is public land – owned by the state. The council is charged with (only) its maintenance. Without the owner’s consent – in this instance a Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) from the state government – any occupation is illegal even if the council issues a permit.

The council’s actions are akin to it giving a licence to someone operating a teh tarik stall on a basketball court belonging to a school. Or take it to the extreme, authorising someone to operate a restaurant on a road-divider.

Now, the DAP is threatening to place similar cabins on playgrounds. What if all political parties start placing cabins on playgrounds? Where will the residents turn to for recreational facilities?

Two wrongs don’t make a right. The council’s decision has opened the floodgates for all and sundry to “take over” playgrounds and turn them into centres of “opportunity”.

When the cabin was first placed early this year, there was almost a free-for-all, resulting in two local Umno leaders being arrested (and later released) on charges that their actions bordered on criminal intimidation.

The one-upmanship by political parties is going to lead to more problems. Inter-party rivalry is going to rear its ugly head and the problem must be nipped in the bud. Besides, with parties taking sides, what is there to prevent residents from taking the law into their own hands when the state can’t afford them protection from trespassers? What is there to prevent yet another showdown between politicians, their cronies and the residents whose rights have been encroached?

The muted response from the councillors, who are supposed to be the ears and eyes of the residents, is startling, to say the least.

First, they allow something illegal. Then they allow the council to legalise the illegality, which it has no power to. Then they are adamant in remaining silent when bully tactics are used.

If this is the case, why are these political appointees sitting there in the first place? Shouldn’t they be replaced by rational, fair-minded and intelligent people with the backbone to make decisions based on common sense, fairplay and the rule of law? We need people who can speak for the people, not against them. We need people with the highest standards of integrity – not those who speak exclusively on other politicians’ behalf.

Updated: 03:42PM Fri, 16 Mar 2007
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Clarification: It was never our intention to place the cabin there permanently. i told Maria that our intention was to force an issue so that MPSJ would realise their mistake and get Umno to remove all the illegal cabins (some 40 units) all over the place.

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