Friday May 19, 2017
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Boo Su-Lyn

Boo Su-Lyn is a feminist who loves reading fiction. She tweets at @boosulyn.

MAY 19 ― When I attended a recent town hall meeting at Taman Tun Dr Ismail (TTDI), it was full of middle-aged people and retirees; there were very few young people.

The youth needs to be more invested in democracy, especially at the local level where we are most directly affected.

The town hall meeting (sans the KL mayor and Federal Territories minister) had discussed the massive condominium project allegedly infringing into Taman Rimba Kiara.

Not only would the proposed development include eight blocks of high-end service apartments that would add a whopping 8,000 to 10,000 new residents to TTDI, the TTDI residents’ association (RA) also said that the project allegedly included plans to build a six-lane highway through the suburb.

The RA complained about how DBKL ignored a 5,000-signature petition. We Taman Tun residents had also organised a mass protest at the Taman Rimba Kiara in June last year.

Despite the protest, petition and even the residents’ threat of a lawsuit, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said that the high-rise development project would proceed and even had the nerve to say that he hoped “the residents will not be easily manipulated”. How patronising.

He was contradicted by KL Mayor Datuk Seri Mhd Amin Abd Aziz the next day, who claimed DBKL had yet to give approval because the project was still under the Rule 5 objection process, in which objections from stakeholders would be collected.

But the mayor did not announce when a public hearing or town hall meeting would be conducted with Taman Tun residents.

It is also worth noting that the FT Minister and the KL Mayor are chairman and director in Yayasan Wilayah Persekutuan, a joint venture partner in the condominium project, which raises serious questions of conflict of interest.

The mayor’s claim about still collecting feedback from stakeholders isn’t reassuring when the minister himself already said the project will go on.

My frustration with the issue isn’t so much about how DBKL seems to be going against the KL City Draft Plan 2020 that designated Taman Rimba Kiara as a public open space, but with the way they’re blatantly ignoring our concerns.

Town hall meetings between constituents and their representatives are common in Western democracies like the United States. Unfortunately, they are rare here in Malaysia.

Instead of repeating claims to the media that the high-rise project will not affect the park, the mayor or the minister should face us residents directly in a town hall meeting.

Yes, town hall meetings may be scary (like a recent one in the US where a father tore apart his representative over the Trumpcare vote), but if public officials want to avoid such forums, then perhaps they’re in the wrong job.

The mayor or the minister should answer all our questions in a town hall meeting and be transparent about the entire issue.

Currently, it’s still unclear if the high-rise project will include the construction of a massive highway (which could involve the felling of trees along the road) in Taman Tun, as the roadworks were purportedly not included in the development order.

The issue with the high-rise project isn’t just with the encroachment of Taman Rimba Kiara, but also the overall quality of life in Taman Tun.

We do not want thousands more people coming here, buying up luxury condominium units that are beyond the reach of young people and the middle class, and congesting the streets with their fancy cars.

If the minister is so concerned about fulfilling the government’s pledge 30 years ago to provide affordable housing for longhouse residents, then he should explain if there are other ways of building the 350-unit block for the former estate workers without having to construct the 1,766-unit service apartment monstrosity.

How much does it cost to build the low-cost flat? Why aren’t there sufficient government funds?

If the mayor refuses to face us because he feels no sense of accountability to the people as an unelected official, then this only strengthens the argument for local council elections.

The people deserve an elected mayor who will run the city well, not a paper pusher who has little regard for residents and no vision for Kuala Lumpur.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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