Time to meet the people you represent

AUGUST 11 — Years of covering politicians as a reporter have taught me that a lot of them are liars, yet I still find it in me to be surprised when they break their promises.

Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Ismail had promised me in June to hold a town hall meeting in Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) where I stay, to explain the controversial condominium project infringing into Taman Rimba Kiara.

He told me that he would do it after Ramadan, but when I pestered him repeatedly after the fasting month, he stayed silent, merely WhatsApping me a video on food places near the MRT while ignoring my messages on the town hall meet.

If government officials feel that they’re doing good work, then have the courage to face residents directly and take questions on controversial development projects.

But no, they ignore our petitions and rallies and hide in their fancy offices, discounting concerns over the impact of an additional 10,000 residents to our suburb and the further destruction of our green lung.

Many Malaysian citizens have become too used to letting those in power run the country without accountability. This needs to change.

A town hall meeting is a basic facet of democracy.

We pay taxes, money which we can use for so many other things like painting our apartments or going on vacation, in the hopes that the government will put the fruits of our labour to good use.

Politics is simply the allocation of resources, my boss once said.

As citizens and especially as taxpayers, we have every right to demand that government officials and lawmakers answer for how they allocate tax monies that come from our slaving away at nine-to-five jobs.

Democracy isn’t just about ticking a name or two every five years (If you reside in a state, you get to vote in both a federal and state lawmaker, unlike Kuala Lumpur residents who can only pick one MP).

It’s about keeping our lawmakers and government officials in check between elections, whether on huge financial scandals reverberating across the globe or on a small park in a suburb. The latter is no less important than the former.

As much as we want lower cost of living and a less corrupt government, safeguarding the planet’s resources and promoting more sustainable living amid climate change are just as important.

Good urban planning, protecting heritage buildings, and promoting leisure and culture through parks, libraries and museums so that we don’t have to spend time in shopping centres, are all crucial to quality of life.

Our lawmakers should be pushing for those things, instead of promoting overdevelopment in the city or constantly harping on corruption.

* This is the opinion of the columnist.

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