By A. Jeyaraj
I came across the signboard in Little India saying that MB Dato’ Seri Diraja Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir launched LA21(Local Agenda 21) on 18 October 2015. LA21 or Local Agenda for 21st century programme was launched in June 1992 during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.
In MBI website there is a description of the LA21 programme and under the heading of Role of Stake Holders, the role of Community is stated as:
“Members of the community comprising people with diverse interests and backgrounds. Representative members of the community will forward their respective views in the LA21 partnership and to bring LA21 revolution back to the community and their respective neighbourhoods.”
Benefits of LA21 to individuals and community:
Your views being taken into account in the planning and implementation of development projects. Your local authority will be more sensitive and effective to your needs.
A more conducive environment and a higher quality of life.
Having more pride and ownership over your surroundings.
What is written above is the concept of LA21, now let us come to the implementation. Launching LA21 and practising it are two different things. I am listing a few projects I know of where LA21 requirements have not been followed. There must be many more.
Tun Razak Public Library opening hours
The library used to be opened from 10am to 8pm, but the time has been reduced to 10am to 5pm from Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays. How can working people make use of the library? Sunday is the day parents are free to take their children to the library and it is closed. How are we going to encourage people to read?
Mohd Zakuan bin Haji Zakaria, MBI Secretary who is head of the Library Committee was not willing to talk to me to justify his decision. I have worked in Kuantan, Johor Bahru, Miri and Kuala Belait (Brunei) and the library in these towns are opened on Sundays. Why can’t it be done in Ipoh?
This shows that MBI makes decisions for its own convenience and is not interested in public needs. Is this what LA21 is about?
Saint Philomena Tamil School’s request for field
For the last 20 years, Saint Philomena Tamil School in Jalan Silibin has been applying for a piece of vacant land next to the school to be used as a field for extra-curricular activities including sports. The authorities decided to give the 0.6ha lot to a state government agency for commercial development.
Instead of holding a public hearing, MBI had discussions with a few representatives from the school and rejected their request. We have more than enough commercial centres. If businesses are set up in the area it would affect all the nearby residents and create an unsafe environment for the pupils. The residents were not consulted.
Bottom line for MBI is to make money and it shows a lack of interest in the welfare of students and residents.
Playground converted to low cost housing
The only playground along Jalan Manjoi in Merdeka Garden was converted to low-cost housing. The residents staying nearby opposed the move and approached Perak Consumer Association (PCA) to help them. PCA wrote to the relevant authorities including the Mayor and Menteri Besar. MBI said that since the project is executed by the PM’s Department, they have no jurisdiction. Low-cost houses have been built, depriving the residents of the only playground. Is this the way MBI is promoting a healthy lifestyle?
If this is the case, soon more vacant land in housing estates will be gone, including those gazetted as playing fields.
What happened to LA21?
Plant Nursery at junction of Jalan Hasan and Jalan Raja
The plot of vacant land at the junction of Jalan Hasan and Jalan Raja at the entrance to Kampung Manjoi is fenced with no signboard informing what is going on. The nearby residents say that the place will be used for a plant nursery. This place is not suitable for a plant nursery. Unlike the location of nurseries along Kuala Kangsar Road, there is no parking space available here. The roads around here cater for single lane traffic and no vacant place is available for parking. This is a busy junction with school children cycling.
It looks like MBI approved this project without visiting the site and without consulting the residents.
Bandar Meru Raya – rapid developments
It looks like every inch of land in Meru Raya is planned for development and there would be no green lung left. The residents are not happy with the rapid developments and are not informed of what is going on. Development is good for the community, but other factors must be considered. Residents are worried of the social ills that would come with the developments. MBI must inform the residents on what is going on and get their views as well.
If MBI is really serious in practising LA21, then public forums must be held especially in housing estates and explain to the ratepayers how they can take part in the decision-making process. Councillors must play their role in dissemination of information.
During a trip to Melbourne, a friend of mine attended their local council meeting uninvited. When he told the councillors that he was a tourist from Malaysia, they welcomed him and allowed him to participate in the discussions. This is the difference between first and third world countries.