Development in Consultation with Community: Myth or Reality ?
(Posted on 02.51pm Jun 24, 2001)

It has been an interesting week, indeed!

A multi million ringgit defamation suit has been filed! A leading newspaper called it a "Battle royale looming", while others termed it "Watershed in good local governance", or "Mother of All Suits!".

Anyway, it is a suit which is expected to blow the lid off over 16 issues, inviting a wide cross-section of witnesses, among them Ministers, Deputy Ministers and others in the local political, business and corporate circles!

The stakes, to state the least, are extremely high!

Incidentally, the suit is set against the backdrop of clarion call for good governance by Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at the opening of the UMNO Youth Assembly. The DPM emphasized in his keynote address the urgent need for CHANGE! He also touched on the issues of transparency, accountability, an open door policy, turun padang strategy which outlined as the "new directions and ingredients for future political governance".

While the DPM were making those noble calls, it is both hilarious and amusing to learn that there was an outcry by several local politicos who were upset with certain development projects. They were said to be disturbed by an elevated highway project linking Subang Jaya to the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) which is speculated to, ah-hah ah hah ah-hah, cut across the Subang International Golf Club (SIGC). This 'cut-through' will also affect and several mahligais of the "Who's Who" in the political and business sector.

The problem is: Those "rich and famous" living in the area were not consulted. As a result, a protem committee is being set up to oppose the highway project.

What is rather inexplicable is, among those quoted of being ignorant of the proposals is, Selangor's Assemblyman and Exco for Local Government, housing and Squatters Committee Chairman - Datuk Mokhtar Ahmad Dahlan (Star Metro, June 21, 2001)!

There are calls made to the Malayan Highway Authority (MHA) and the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Prime Minister's Department, to clear the air over the said project!

Several issues seem to emerge from this fiasco!

First, this wall of secrecy over how similar million-ringgit projects were awarded to the same group of contractors - in some cases without any questions asked. But, like some say, this is "boleh land" and everything and anything is possible!

Let's get back to the REAL issues.

One is on consultation, feedbacks, transparency, accountability, and matters relating to managing the electorates at all times, not just before national elections!

If someone as high up in the Selangor State administration can cry ignorance over major project, I cannot but continue to feel sorry for us mortal beings who have to cry in the wilderness, hoping real consultation between policy-makers and the community can really happen!

We seem to have hoped in vain!

In the first place, this is not the first time the EPU has come under fire. What is so secretive? Secrecy of this sort is definitely doing nothing positive to avert confidence-plunging rumours floating in the market place.

I really for one cannot figure out why all the secrecy unless, of course, there are certainly more "juicy bits and pieces" that have yet to emerge. May be only time will confirm that certain people in very high places had skillfully put the lid on this until such time that it is politically correct to make the appropriate announcement!

It is interesting to note that nowadays the politicos are feeling the same the pain, anxiety and the strain as the poor, uninformed communities. The common people have for years be cornered with similar million-ringgit projects that are planned on the land they have been living in for decades, only to realise all of a sudden, hundreds of armed policemen and security personnel with the local council enforcement divisions surrounding them, with bulldozers ready to demolish all in sight. OK, we have read enough in the Press how "instant homeless beings" are created out of these events. They all make a mockery of our commitments at international conferences, like the Habitat Conference in Istanbul!

Worse, when a multi million 33-storey building that is built right in your neighbourhood, causing your block of houses to crack and sink, all that the relevant authority can say is: "Oh, we are only middleman!"

In such real-life scenario, who do you think can protect your interests?

Where is the spirit and commitment to Local Agenda 21 which formed the basis for an enhanced Quality of Life in the midst of mindless physical development? Instead, we are caught up in the evolution of grandiose and macro projects in the name of "development and progress" - and say YES! to the "Manhattan skyline" that seems so "fashionable"!

Of course, certain contractors and their political masters are happy! But, is there any one taking into account the real causalities of all these? Or, do we wait for 2004 to deal with all these things we call good governance that is accountable and transparent? You decide.

Dr. Jacob George
Subang Jaya

Views expressed in the article are entirely the author's. They do no in anyway reflect those of this website.