Below is the article by Citizen Nades in the Sun today:
Theft of public land is no petty crime
WHEN Subang Jaya Municipal Council president Datuk Adnan Md Ikhsan chaired a public hearing on a planning application on Nov 13, 2007, he moaned and groaned that he had been working on an empty stomach – and kept repeating the fact that he had not had a drink all morning, that the people do not understand him and lamented that his job was a difficult one.
Having treated residents with utter contempt by keeping them waiting for an hour, he then went to "lecture" them on who is qualified to attend. He viewed the residents as "nosy parkers" who were hell-bent on preventing politicians and their cronies from plonking a 15-storey commercial complex on where the balai raya in SS15 stands. Only a telephone call from the chief secretary to the government, Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan, jolted him back into reality and realising that he works for the people, that their views have to be heard and that their needs have to be met.
Mohd Sidek has a proclivity for going by the book and in the next few days, no would be surprised if Adnan is cited again for what is now becoming known as the "Telekom land scandal" in USJ6.
Some background to the case: A piece of land was sold to Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) in 1988 by the developer, UEP at that time, later Sime-UEP and now Sime Darby Properties, for a telecommunication facility. When Sime submitted the layout plan to the state planning committee, it remained so, and TM has since built an office on part of the land. Sime developed the area which is now called USJ6 and those who bought the houses were given a layout plan which showed the existence of the TM building. In 1989, the use of the land was changed to "commercial" and the residents believed that it would be used as an exchange or an office by TM.
No one would apportion blame on Adnan. He was not part of the decision-making body and neither were his fingerprints anywhere on or near the documents. But the events that followed have hallmarks of heavy-handedness by MPSJ officials. In November 2005, MPSJ rejected an application by TM to sub-divide the land on the grounds that it would remain as a reserve for TM’s use. In February the following year, an appeal was filed but turned down as it was described in the records as "ditolak dengan alasan tapak tersebut merupakan tapak kemudahaan awam (rezab telekom)".
Despite that, another application was submitted and on June 17 last year, a public hearing was held on the application where residents and those affected objected on the grounds that no traffic impact assessment (TIA) report was submitted. Those present questioned the legality of the change in the land use. No answers were forthcoming. After the March 8 elections, no council meetings were held until July when the new councillors were sworn-in. So, the public hearing was held without any endorsement of the councillors or the full council or the one-stop-centre (OSC). (Note the dates because the timings are crucial.)
In June, the OSC (without councillors sitting as members) was again asked to look at the application and it referred it to the state planning committee. The new councillors took office on July 1 but at no time were they told that the application had been rejected THREE times. Neither were they told that the previous decisions were valid and even the appeal had been rejected. But the planning committee approved the application, and MPSJ informed the applicant accordingly. Residents protested and the issue was raised at the state assembly on March 12.
What is worrying is that the facts of the case were hidden from the state planning committee when it decided to give the approval. Who withheld vital information such as the previous rejections when the committee met?
According to the minutes of the meeting, there is neither mention of the rejections nor the requirement of the TIA report. Ironically, the TIA report surfaced in May this year, nine months AFTER the approval was given. How could the approval be given without the TIA report? Shouldn’t the residents have a right under the Town and Country Planning Act to view the report and then make their objections known?Perhaps, MPSJ has not learnt the lesson that its neighbour, the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) is paying for not following procedures in the Mentari case. Residents of Taman Desa Ria successfully sued when the council called for a public hearing three months AFTER issuing the development order.
In this case, the damage can be repaired by revoking the development order and the state acquiring the land for a public purpose, in this case a recreational facility for the residents. However, that is not the point. This is not the first time land meant for public amenities has been hijacked for commercial purposes. It has happened before in Bandar Utama. But the state government has remained silent with folded arms as those responsible keep creaming off what is meant for the public.
The theft of public land must stop. We are told this is the modus operandi of some politicians and their cronies aided and abetted by civil servants in using public land for private purposes. Layout plans with the land demarcated for public amenities are approved, only to be changed later by concealing facts and figures from the authorities. The same methods are used all over the state to take over land meant for the public. This is an act of fraud and those responsible must be punished.For a start, Adnan has a duty to explain why no one was informed of rejection of the three previous applications. They were kept secret to all and sundry – from the mentri besar down to the ordinary ratepayer. The usual excuse would be: "I left it in the hands of the town planner."
The buck stops with the boss and he must take responsibility for such errors and omissions. He has a duty not only to explain to the chief secretary but also to the thousands of ratepayers in Subang Jaya. Anything less would be unacceptable.R. Nadeswaran says stealing from the people is no petty theft and wants the perpetrators of fraud on the people to be brought to book. He is editor (special and investigative reporting) at theSun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org