THERE’s a rumour making the rounds that the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) will close down the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Petaling Jaya (PJ) because the premise was not approved for a church.
For certain, the land that DUMC is located on is not designated for a “religious institution” that would permit the land to be used as a place of worship. However, before the ones who created the rumour rejoice and insist that the city council close down DUMC, let’s review some of the development rules I have previously raised that would be relevant to this case.
All land titles have what you call “express conditions” which state what the land can be used for. The term is described in detail under Sections 103 to 108 of the National Land Code.
The National Land Code further prescribes that the land cannot be used for anything other than what the express condition permits. Since the land that DUMC is sitting on is designated for industrial use only, it should technically be used as a factory and nothing else.
That said, if the council were to enforce the land code strictly, then the houses in SS2 in PJ that have been converted to bridal shops should also be shut down. The properties there are strictly for “residential use” only.
The same action would also apply to quite a number of commercial buildings that have sprung up in Section 13 in PJ. The colleges that currently occupy these former factory lots – like Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman – would also have to ship out.
If the authorities want to impose the land code effectively, they must do it fairly across the board. But in doing so, they might just facilitate a small-scale economic collapse within PJ.
Still, what is the point of having laws and rules if they are not enforced? Now, this is where we have to hold accountable the politicians of yesteryear for not adhering to development rules and regulations when they should have.
I have previously highlighted that the development rules stipulate that 10% of land that has been approved for development must be turned into open space. On top of that, there are also rules that prescribe the need to surrender up to 30% of the development area for public use. That would include land for religious institutions, cemeteries and schools.
Of course, no one bothers with these rules because they argue that the rules are just guidelines and need not be followed to the letter. Everyone can instead maximise profit and not bother with requirements such as surrendering 30% of the total land for public use.
Are we surprised, then, that communities have to resort to using houses, factories and commercial buildings as places of worship or institutions of higher learning?
Correcting the problem
In order to correct this problem, development rules need to be reinstated and applied strictly for new developments. At the same time, the state government must look at legal remedies for existing problems. The only problem is there would be zero development in PJ if these rules were applied, and property developers would certainly object.
Since money speaks louder than a councillor’s advice, one would be right in assuming that the status quo will be in place for a long time yet.
MBPJ councillor KW Mak has been told he is no politician because he doesn’t know the art of sugar-coating. All he has to say is, “Too much sugar can cause diabetes.”
Kassim Ahmad says
Typical politician’s double-speak! Cut to the chase and give a simple answer : can or not?
KW MAK says
@ Kassim Ahmad
Could you please point out where exactly is the double-speak you speak of?
Anyway, to make it easier for you to understand, let me summarise the article for you – the council can take action, but not without consequences on a much wider scale than just closing down a place of worship – consequences that are not political in nature.
The situation, while not ideal, is part of what Barisan Nasional left behind when it did not follow the rules in allowing development. As such, no action will likely be taken because to remedy the situation means a restriction on development, which would be protested by giant corporate developers.
Was that easier to understand for you?
Jacqueline Ann Surin says
KW Mak is not a politician. He’s a councillor and as far as I know, doesn’t belong to any political party.
You ask for a simple answer, a clear black and white “yes or no”. Perhaps there is NO simple answer. And perhaps the situation is more complex than being just black or white.
I think Mak’s column explains why it would be hard for MBPJ to act in any way which does not take into account the repercussions of its actions on the wider community.
Jacqueline Ann Surin
The Nut Graph
What are you saying? All of us don’t have to comply with the planning laws? TNG just publishes condemnation of Hishammuddin and the arbitrariness of our laws. Why [make justifications] for DUMC and the PR?
Lau Weng San says
My answer to Kassim Ahmad: Cannot, as demolition of all religious structures must first be referred to and endorsed by the exco.
JW Tan says
Sadly, I am familiar with some anecdotal evidence that non-Muslims do not easily get land-use permission for their own places of worship. I can only deduce that these communities would not be allocated their share of public land to build temples or churches. Therefore flouting the current system to build something like DUMC would probably continue even if the development rules were enforced as you suggest.
It surprises me that we are still blaming Barisan Nasional for our messes. MBPJ has a duty to enforce the law without fear or favour. It is irresponsible to use the possibility of a “small-scale economic collapse” as an excuse for inaction. It is much better to risk a short term slow down than to drag the issue on indefinitely. The Selangor government needs to be decisive and finalise the draft PJ local plans. Continuing to tolerate unlawful developments such as DUMC and the Muslim cemetery in Kota Damansara does not win the respect of the rakyat and sends the message that laws are made to be broken.
KW MAK says
I have several ideas on how to get things done, but I’m not in the driver’s seat, so I inform and educate the public about the realities of the situation as best I can.
If you think the possibility of a small-scale economic collapse is an excuse, by all means state your ideas on how you would fix the problem. Please then find someone – or join MBPJ yourself – to implement your idea.
Please do bear in mind that your solution would have to take into account the risk of having quite a lot of people default on bank loans when you force the closure of the colleges and commercial centres that violate the law I mentioned.
I’m sure the public appreciates your ideas on how to get things done. But if you are “not in the driver’s seat” as an MBPJ councillor then who is? And what is the use of informing the public if there are no local government elections? And how can I join MBPJ? We voted for change at the last elections. I was even part of your team of Edward Lee’s polling agents.
The problem that you highlight is one of widespread disregard of the rule of law. The risk of having a few businesses default on bank loans is one worth taking. It will result in a more robust society that can then move forward within a system that everyone respects.
KW MAK says
Think of the councillor position as equivalent to the board of directors – they discuss the ideas and agree or disagree on a particular action. Implementation of these ideas falls on the CEO, who is the mayor and the department heads.
The mayor also has the power to veto the councillors’ decisions if he [or she] feels a need for it, provided he [or she] gives a reason and get consent from the Menteri Besar.
Removal of any department head or their deputy requires consent from the state government – it’s all in the Local Govt Act.
Since these officers don’t follow orders too well, as I have shown in previous articles, and since I cannot remove them without state government approval, I report what happens and then find my own way of getting things done.
If you wish to debate this part further, I would suggest you read the Local Government Act first.
How you join MBPJ depends on how you want to get in. If you wish to become an officer, provided you have the right credentials, I can recommend you a post. If you wish to become a councillor, play politics or be part of a large influential NGO. There is no form, procedure or process to this method, so the exact method would be entirely up to you. I would recommend you petition Edward Lee if you are so inclined.
Now that you are somewhat acquainted with the system of how things work – let me address your statement that you voted for change.
Did you hold the politician accountable for their electoral promises? Do you even know what your politician is up to? If not, you voted for a politician and not change.
Voting is only the first step towards the change you thought you were voting for.
TK Lee says
Councillor Mak: You are right in that we should hold our useless politicians to their words. However, there is still no reason for MBPJ to use that as an excuse to not adhere to the law. If we don’t begin changing for the better, when is a good time to ever change?
Economic breakdown if original land use is being adhered to, you say? Surely landowners of Sec 13 can apply for conversion of land use? PJ is in such a strategic location, many companies wouldn’t mind operating here. It’s the affordability, and sufficiency of offices with ample parking, which is the concern.
The problem with Sec 13 is that these are large buildings on large tracts of land that landlords would rather rent out and sit on until the value appreciates even further. This is, however, not our problem. The problem is we the residents, the ratepayers, EXPECT that our rights be upheld under the law by (imagine! of all people!) MBPJ, our city council!
We PJ-ites want a Sustainable City Development plan, and not one based on bias of any form – political, religious, racial or otherwise!
There are abundant examples of not only the National Land Code being abused by the previous BN state government, but the Town and Country Planning Code as well.
How can we explain the approval given for the construction of the building on the previous Mercedes Benz lot opposite PJ Hilton, whereby the ramp into the building extended beyond over the motorcycle lane on the Federal Highway? Who gave the approval? Was it not the previous exco?
How can we explain the approval for Tropicana Mall, whereby the approach and exit into and from the Mall are not planned according to bylaws, and part of the exit road had to be shared with state roads? By right, part of these buildings should have been torn down. Agreed?
There are many instances beyond this discussion involving infringement of forest reserve land, and yet the previous exco said it is only the fringe of the forest they are taking.
I just wonder why focus is on the Selangor state, whereas there are hundreds of thousands of infringement on laws and rules in other states from the previous BN state exco.