Thursday, August 21, 2008

No talk, full stop

LET’S get one thing out of the way.

The Selangor government has NOT reversed its policy on hillside development ... yet.

What this paper had been campaigning for is good governance, transparency and holding steadfast to promises made. Even an intention to break election promises is of grave concern as it reflects a government that is prone to bending over backwards on its policies and compromising the people’s welfare for the whims of large corporations whose only concern is the mighty ringgit, and to whom sustainable development is taboo.

In Selangor at least, for the last two decades, we had been subject to a state government that can be equated with a secret society, where almost every deliberation and decision was classified as an "Official Secret".
Minutes of meetings were doctored and an entity deemed illegal by the High Court was deciding on development and investments. This entity continues to be used by the present government.
Local authorities keep two sets of books – one for public reference and one for officials – and the alienation of land meant for the public or the lower income group, to the well-connected, was as common as ais kacang on a hot day. How much of state land has ended up in the hands of cronies – some of them teenagers – will remain a mystery, unless of course the new government keeps to its word – to declassify the documents.
If there were two sets of books, there were also two sets of laws – one for you and me, and the other for exco members and assemblymen and their families and cronies.
The people are seldom consulted and even if they are, it is a mere cosmetic exercise, epitomised by the words of Datuk Emran Kadir, when he was Petaling Jaya Municipal Council (MPPJ) president: "We will hear the residents’ views but we have already decided to go ahead with the project." This is the same man who insisted that a "sumbangan" (contribution) of RM10,000 had to be made with every application for a billboard licence!
The cutting of hills and encroachment into parks and green lungs were met with a slap on the wrist and another development order for another swathe of de-gazetted or non-gazetted forest. For a small cemetery, 58ha was alienated – the balance would have ended up with cronies if not for the change on March 8.
Direct negotiations were always favoured over a transparent tender process and private companies with city council officials and councillors as directors were operating with impunity, where money meant for rate-payers was siphoned into private accounts.
So it was no wonder that the people said "enough is enough" and when the opportunity came, booted out those who had overstayed their welcome and treated public office as a private entity.
Which is why, when the new guys took over, they were viewed as the Messiah – sent from the heavens to protect the weak and oppressed, and all things good and decent.
The clean-up crew was to unearth the sins of the past and put things right again. Do we hold them to higher standards than their predecessors? Of course. Because that was how they painted themselves to be – whiter than white – during the election campaign and even before when they were community leaders and heads of NGOs.
Executive councillor for investment, trade and commerce, Teresa Kok, had campaigned alongside residents and environmentalists against the rape of Bukit Gasing, and had spoken out against developers who flout the law, long before she joined the state administration.
Likewise, executive councillor for local government, Ronnie Liu, whose claim to fame was as the "Shadow MPPJ", had been vocal in pointing out misdeeds and abuse of process by the local council and developers who park themselves outside the offices of the council president. Thus, one cannot fault this paper or the public for being aghast to find these same personalities now seemingly justifying the requests of the developers.
Yes, Kok and Liu are right. There is no harm in listening to developers and allowing them to have their say on certain issues. Yes, developers are not the enemy and there are many property developers out there who abide by rules and regulations and endorse sustainable development. But when the agenda is to get the state government to reverse a policy, which it was elected on, the two YBs should have said "No deal. You want to talk about other problems; we are all ears, but not hillslope policy".
There is a big likelihood that the policy will remain. Liu – a night after meeting Citizen-Nades and I to clarify his position – had told the Star Metro this. But our bone of contention is that even entertaining these developers, many of whom obtained hillside land from the previous administration via dubious means, sends the wrong message to the people.
Now, thanks to the Real Estate and Housing Developers Association (Rehda) – which felt compelled to jump to Kok’s and Liu’s defence via a statement to this paper, part of which was published on Friday – we know that the mentri besar had already had one meeting with developers – without residents, environmentalists and those opposed to hillside development present.
The two page letter from Eddy Chen, adviser of Rehda Selangor, had 10 paragraphs – the first two stating that it was invited to the meeting and that it was "erroneous of theSun to report that Rehda is pressuring the Selangor government to reverse its policy". (Citizen-Nades in a note to Chen refuted the claim – that no where did this paper use the word "pressuring").
The rest discusses at length the sustainability of hillside development and why Selangor needs more homes!
We have since learnt that Rehda also met the Land Task Force which rejected its appeals and upheld the policy. So, the policy is safe for now. But what guarantee is there that there will not be further attempts to get the state government to be "flexible" on this policy?
Well, even if there is, we know whom these developers will approach to argue their case. One hopes that where right and wrong is as clear as night and day, those in power will adopt the attitude that there will be no further discussion on the issue.

Terence had told relatives and friends in Seputeh to vote for Teresa Kok in the recent election because "she can effect change". He hopes he was not wrong. Email terence@thesundaily.com for feedback.

Zulkifli Noordin is now Umno?

In Malaysiakini, YB LGE said that YB Zulkifli Noordin is no different from Umno for bad attitude.

And Zulkifli Noordin replied that "Do not label him as Umno". He then said, "This matter should never be politicised."

During this mother-of-all-by-elections, there is one over-used politically correct statement, "Do not politicise this and that."

Pak Lah said that do not politicise DNA bill and his sleeping on the job thingies. Anwar said do not politicise that guy sumpah-sumpah. Najib said, do not politicise his alleged khalwat case in Port Dickson and submarine purchase scandal or Altantuya. Khairy said, do not politicise his ECM-Libra scandal etc.

When politicians say do not politicise this and that, what is left for politicians to say and do?

In reality, politics is everything in Malaysia. Not only in political arena but in other supposedly non-political fields. That's why we are still lagging behind in, for examples, sports and university world ranking.


Guan Eng: PKR's Zulkifli no different from Umno
Rahmah Ghazali Aug 21, 08 5:11pm
DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng today slammed his fellow Pakatan Rakyat MP Zulkifli Noordin for bad attitude, putting the latter in the same boat as arch-rival Umno.
"It is very disappointing for him, coming from a multiracial party like PKR to speak at this level," Lim told reporters at the Parliament lobby. "Sometimes we see these remarks are no different from Umno."
Zulkifli, in the doghouse for taking part in a rowdy protest against a recent Bar Council forum to discuss legal issues related to the conversion to Islam, got into more trouble with his opposition colleagues yesterday.
During a parliamentary session, the PKR MP for Kulim had accused Chong Eng (DAP-Bukit Mertajam) of being a 'racist', claiming that she had tried to portray the Muslims who protested the Bar Council event as aggressive and irrational.Lim, who is also Penang chief minister, said Zulkifli should be aware that he represented PKR, a multiracial party unlike Umno which accepted only Malay and bumiputera members.
Lim reiterated that Chong was not a racist, otherwise she would not have received so much support from her Malay constituents during the March general election.
Nevertheless he added the DAP would not seek a reprimand from the House. Stressing Pakatan unity, Lim said his party would leave the matter with the PKR leadership.
"There is no point (bringing this up in the House) because I think PKR has taken their stand, and their stand is similar to ours. So there's no point for us to bring it up. Let PKR handle this matter," he said.

'Don't label me as Umno'
Meanwhile, an unrepentant Zulkifli defended his action.
"Any Muslim would defend their religion, regardless from which party they are from. It is not fair for me to be labeled as Umno for defending my own religion," Zulkifli said when met by reporters later on.
"This matter should never be politicised."
The Kulim MP however said his agument with Chong would not affect their relationship in the Pakatan.
"DAP is a mature party. I do not see any fracture that will affect our relationship...but if Lim wants to sit down and talk about this matter with me, I would welcome it," he added.
He also said he protested the Bar Council forum as a member of Lawyers in Defence of Islam (Pembela) and not as a PKR MP. Therefore, the show-cause letter PKR had said wanted to serve on him was not an issue, he added."Anwar called me last night, and he also has accepted my explanation that I was there not as a PKR MP, but as a lawyer," Zulkifli said.