Why the Cabinet should save a small park in Taman Tun Dr Ismail

MAY 17 ― For three months, my mother tried to get Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) unsuccessfully to fix the streetlights in a nearby playground where she usually goes jogging at 5.30am.

When she first called DBKL Segambut’s office in November, they referred her to the Landscape Department a month later. Nothing happened for another month. No one responded when she filled up DBKL’s online complaint form. Her calls and emails to DBKL went unanswered.

My mother finally emailed Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh’s office after Chinese New Year in February.

Despite juggling the duties of a deputy minister, Yeoh got the streetlights fixed within a week. Her office even sent my mother pictures of the repairs being carried out at night.

It’s great that Pakatan Harapan (PH) is clamping down on grand kleptocracy and all that, but fixing broken streetlights quickly would also be nice.

It is unfortunate that despite the change in government, local authorities like DBKL still do not respond to basic concerns and act only when an MP intervenes.

And now, the Federal Territories Ministry ― which exerts federal jurisdiction over DBKL ― is in a stand-off with Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI) residents over a development project at Taman Rimba Kiara (TRK).

Federal Territories Minister Khalid Samad said the Cabinet will decide on whether to cancel the TRK project or to proceed by halving the size of the luxury condominium development.

At first glance, it’s strange that Malaysia’s top political leaders who make national policies are the ones deciding on a local issue in the suburbs of KL, instead of the local authority.

Our ministers must support Yeoh’s efforts to save TRK, even if only two of them, Teresa Kok and Datuk Seri Rina Harun, are from KL.

Even the FT Minister himself is not from KL as he represents Shah Alam, Selangor, a wholly different constituency from Malaysia’s capital.

I am not sure how the Cabinet will decide, since the TRK project has nothing to do with the ministers’ portfolios (except for Khalid) at a national level, nor is it located within their constituencies.

But Rina and DAP and PKR ministers, at least, should support Yeoh’s commendable work as an MP in standing up for her constituents and in challenging a minister, even though they are both from PH.

Except for Titiwangsa MP Rina who is from Bersatu, the other nine KL MPs are all from DAP and PKR.

It is crucial for lawmakers from the ruling coalition, particularly when the Opposition has no interest in good governance issues beyond race and religion, to defend their constituents’ interest even if it may run counter to the administration.

Yeoh has also called for the Attorney General to review the TRK project. Khalid responded by saying that he would share his presentation with the Attorney General, not just the Cabinet. He should make his paper available to TTDI residents too.

Khalid claims that he is not an “apologist” for developers, but that he is simply trying to save public funds because scrapping the TRK project will allegedly cost RM150 million in compensation. Well, two wrongs don’t make a right.

TTDI residents may not “own” the park, but the fact remains that TRK was meant to be a public open space for everyone’s enjoyment. Give the longhouse residents their long-promised housing and return the park to the people.

Despite the change in government, DBKL continues to act against ratepayers’ interests. DBKL, for example, decided to appeal against a Court of Appeal decision that favoured Taman Tiara Titiwangsa residents who had protested a high-rise project.

As long as our city councilors and mayor remain unelected, city councils like DBKL are free to ignore residents’ concerns, from broken streetlights to huge unwanted developments that destroy parks and the makeup of entire neighbourhoods.

Change cannot come simply by swapping people in power without changing the system.

Malaysia must dissolve the Federal Territories, abolish the FT Ministry, and restore local council elections, at least in KL, by next year. Return Labuan to Sabah. Putrajaya can be placed under Selangor’s jurisdiction.

Local elections to elect the mayor and local or city councilors can be nonpartisan, which means candidates run without officially representing a political party.

Parties do not nominate candidates. So, any number of candidates from various parties like PAS, or PH or Barisan Nasional (BN) components, can run in local races.

This will give voters greater choice and enable them to choose candidates who truly represent them in local issues, instead of being forced into an undesirable dichotomy of government versus Opposition.

The winner in local races should be required to win more than 50 per cent of the vote, rather than use the traditional first-past-the-post system. If no one gets more than half the vote in the primary ballot, then the top two candidates should contest again in a run-off election.

If TTDI had an elected councillor, she or he would certainly cancel the TRK project for fear of losing their seat in an election.

FT Minister Khalid ― who is also chairman of Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan which holds a joint venture with Memang Perkasa (majority owned by Malton) to develop the TRK project ― can ride roughshod over TTDI concerns because he has no such fears.

If Khalid truly believes that he is acting in TTDI residents’ and KLites’ best interests, then move for the dissolution of the Federal Territories, leave Shah Alam, and run for KL Mayor. Defend the TRK project then.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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