What happened to the public town hall meetings? ― Mak Khuin Weng

NOVEMBER 13 ― With MBPJ proposing to amend the RTPJ1 and RTPJ2, I think it would be a good idea to revisit some stories of the past and what our politicians and councillors of today used to say when BN was in power.

“Follow Section 12(a) and tell us who wants these amendments and the impact assessment of such changes,” said Sivarasa.

Here is Sivarasa Rasiah, the present Subang MP and PKR vice president, saying that the Town and Country Planning Act requires the council to announce who wants the changes done to the local plan and show the studies on how those amendments would impact the surrounding areas.

This point was agreed upon by lawyer and present MBPJ councillor Derek Fernandez. Note that this point of view was presented in 2005.

Both these men have influence over the present Pakatan government, yet the process in which MBPJ presented their local plan amendments do not have these impact assessment studies. The draft report of the local plan Pakatan is presenting to the public is no different from how it used to be during the BN era. Most perplexing, isn't it?

But what many people may not realise is that in the article I linked which shows Sivarasa and Derek Fernandez criticising the BN politicians/government, those criticisms were done in a town hall meeting with public participation and media coverage. I should know because I was the reporter writing that story.

So now let's ask the question ― why is it that when BN wanted to change the local plan that they took the trouble to organise a public town hall meeting which allowed the public to skewer them but there is no such public meeting under Pakatan?

Moving on a year later to 2006, MPPJ (this was before PJ was announced as a city) once again held another public town hall meeting to first brief the residents of the proposed changes after their first exercise failed.

Here I will quote Derek Fernandez on his thoughts about the process.

“A consultation must be a genuine consultation. You cannot pre-decide the issue,” said Section 5 Residents Association legal adviser Derek Fernandez.

“There is evidence to suggest that this meeting is just an eye-wash and the evidence pertains to the conversion of the car park for the PJ Exchange (PJX), which is one of the items for discussion.”

Fernandez pointed out that the PJX had been launched by Selangor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohd Khir Toyo recently, with banners on PJ roads bearing both the state government’s and the council’s crest. He questioned how the council could approve and advertise a project that was just now being tabled for discussion with residents.

“In making amendments such as these, you must provide an impact assessment on traffic? if not it is ad-hoc planning,” said Fernandez.

“What is the justification of this proposal?”

Powerful words. But look at the process today and ask why Pakatan didn't hold a public briefing?

Where the two attempts by BN to change the local plan had the ADUNs on stage taking the heat from residents, Pakatan's own politicians just ask residents to file in their objections.

Here is the thing. This proposal to RTPJ1 and RTPJ2 is a government initiative. That means all proposals contained within have already been agreed upon by the politicians. In fact, if you read the front portion of the latest draft local plan amendment proposal, you will find that MBPJ held several meetings from Feb to April this year to approve all the proposals to be presented.

“Penyediaan Awal Draf RTPJ 2 (Pengubahan 2) oleh Majlis adalah menurut peruntukan Seksyen 12 hingga 16, Akta Perancangan Bandar dan Desa 1976 (Akta 172). Majlis telah mengadakan Mesyuarat Jawatankuasa Teknikal Pengubahan Rancangan Tempatan Petaling Jaya 1,2 Dan Rancangan-Rancangan Kawasan Khas pada 14 Februari 2017, 6 Mac 2017, 14 Mac 2017, 16 Mac 2017, 30 Mac 2017 dan 10 April 2017 bagi menimbangkan cadangan-cadangan yang terlibat di dalam Penyediaan Awal Draf RTPJ 2 (Pengubahan 2). Perkara ini telah dipersetujui di dalam Mesyuarat Jawatankuasa Perancang Bandar Bil 4 pada 18 April 2017 dan di sahkan di Mesyuarat Majlis Bil 5 pada 25 April 2017.”

So our ADUNs should be aware of these proposals because their councillors agreed to these amendments in several meetings.

Anyway, I am writing this down to point out how sad it is when we look back at history and realize that our government system not only didn't improve in transparency and accountability, it actually regressed.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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