It all started in 2005 when Petaling Jaya Pro-action Committee (Appac), a joint committee of several community associations, was established to echo the greater voice of the grassroots. Today, the group now calls itself the Petaling Jaya and Selangor Residents Association Coalition (Apac) with 20 resident associations (RAs) as members, including the RAs of condominiums. Komunitikini talks to outgoing president of Apac, Liew Wei Beng, on PJ communities, RAs, local council and grassroots.
1) What is a RA’s function in the community?
We function as a platform to put in demands. We recognise that it is difficult for assemblyman or MP to deal with single individuals. So by having RAs, we can make a bottom-up decision to ensure whatever the council has implemented really benefits the residents.
2) How would you describe the bridging role of Apac between the authorities and the residents?
As a coordinate body we don’t really interfere with the local issues of specific RAs, unless they can’t solve it themselves. But we do voice concerns which affects all walks of life in PJ, for example the assessment rate issue in 2005. The issue came up when the then-MPPJ said they want to raise the assessment rate from eight to 10 percent to comply with the qualifications of becoming a city.
We felt that was not necessary. Through a series of investigations we found out that the billboard operators was paying ‘under table’ money to the MPPJ’s football club, which belongs to the civil servants of MPPJ. They could have used that to increase their revenues rather than raise the assessment. Thus Apac kept protesting until finally when the current Datuk Bandar Mohamad Roslan took over the leadership. He took measures to disband the football club.
3) What would you comment on the local council or local councillors?
The vast difference between BN-led and Pakatan-led council is the party bigwigs. BN has many party bigwigs which have everything decided before the (MBPJ’s) monthly full-board meeting. So there was not much of discussion in the meeting. But as ratepayers, we would rather see our councillor voice out things that concern us. Whereas now, Pakatan reps (do not) put on a one-man show, plus many councilors now are from NGO backgrounds. These have made the meeting more vocal.
But somehow many residents and I don’t agree with the appointment councillor in yearly basis. A councillor cannot do much in 1 year. Besides, many issues take years to resolve. Some of them will even ignore the issues if they know their contracts are not being renewed.
4) What is the pressing issue or ongoing concerns of your community?
In the last few months, we were facing trouble over our boom gate security scheme. MBPJ removed many barricades erected in the community. Undoubtedly, those are so-called illegal security scheme. But the criteria to qualify as legal scheme include public land titles and collecting the garbage ourselves, which little communities could achieve.
But for the residents, the security scheme is proven effective to cut down crime.
5) What are the actions taken by your community or any authorities to tackle the issue?
We have several meetings with the key figures. Last month before the monthly full board meeting, we got a tip-off. So on April 21, we had a meeting with our members RAs. We received the mandate to submit a memorandum to appeal any removal of the boom gates. In the end we are informed that MBPJ tabled to defer the removal action in the meeting.
6) Do you think there is a need to resume local council elections?
Yes. Apac always pushes for local council election. In fact after Pakatan took over we proposed that it could be started in PJ. PJ has 24 zones with their respective councillors. The election can run with residents voting with their ICs. The MB will then appoint the chosen candidate to be our councillor.
7) How should we make our community better?
Community awareness is very important. For example the boom gate issue, it actually brings the residents together. They found the importance to have RAs and RTs in order to safe guard their interest.
However the difficulty, especially among the Chinese community is unless their interest is affected, they will never participate. Last week the operation chief of district police station (OCPD) chose my area to do senam robik with the residents at 7.30 morning, I received a complaint from a resident who said he can’t sleep and he is a night-shift attendant.
OCPD took their initiative to get close to the community, but the residents don’t seem to prepare to even sacrifice one morning to get to know their OCPD.
8) How should we make our country better?
The government should no longer rule top-down. They must really look into the grassroots, recognise the contribution given by RAs and RT (rukun tetangga) in implementing federal policies and furthering their agenda.
End of the day, it is the vote that counts. If the government is not opening their ears to hear our concern, they are going to suffer the consequences later.