Political Constraints or Mere Excuses?

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By Jerry Francis

Eating stalls at Jalan Oon Jaafar

Are most of Ipoh City Council’s failures to enforce various regulations due to political constraints, or are they excuses conveniently used by its councillors, officers and workers?

To answer this question, one just has to look at the “no action” taken on certain problems in the city. What one will be told usually is that no action can be taken due to political constraints: either the persons connected with the problems are strong supporters of political parties or the fear that any action could cause a backlash.

In fact, an enforcement officer even admitted that he was told by his superior that the operator of a certain food outlet in the city was a “party’s man” and that they have to restrain from taking any action. Take for instance the much talked about eateries constructed on the pavement along busy Jalan Dato’ Oon Jaafar.  The question on the lips of many residents is how the food stalls could be built on the pavement and yet no action taken for years. Are pavements constructed for the safety of pedestrians or for such stalls? Pedestrians walking along the street need to come down to the road risking life and limb. Another location is in front of the former Odean Theatre, where night food stalls operate. It is considered unhygienic and unsuitable, but there is no move to relocate them.

Why the double standard? While some are allowed to operate on the pavements even along busy streets, others are immediately summoned and their stalls demolished not just on pavements, but even along roadsides. Relocation of street hawkers and food stalls, demo-lishing illegal structures, even ensuring every household has a rubbish bin are some of the many issues in the city considered as “political risks.”

It is so because some political leaders have this notion that offending those guilty of breaching the regulations could cost them their support as well as their votes. This has resulted in certain influential people getting away with anything. The decision to “close an eye” often comes from the top. Even the mayor, they will argue, cannot undertake these tough measures because of political constraints.

No Action without Directive

Taking this cue, many officials entrusted with enforcing regulations are reluctant to act unless they receive a directive. “How can we take action when my superior said that no action is to be taken,” commented an official.

This inaction is giving opposition party leaders the opportunity to cash in on these “political constraints” by threatening to organise protests and demonstrations should any unfair action involve their supporters.

About two decades ago, there was a move to clear all street stalls in the city and relocate them indoors for the sake of cleanliness and hygiene. As a result, a number of food-courts were set up in strategic areas in the city. The street hawkers, who had been doing good business in a certain location, began to move into shop-houses in the same vicinity, while others moved into nearby food-courts. Those who could afford to take over whole premises, established their own restaurants. Among them are the popular “Nga Choy Kai” (chicken taugeh or bean sprouts) operators in the new town sector.

Hawkers Now Defiant

For a few years the city looked progressive and clean; then the street hawkers began to slowly move back to the unhealthy environment in the streets, especially at night, and some of the food-courts began to lose their purpose. Generally most of these hawkers question why they should abide by the regulations, while others can get away by breaching them. Those “with right connections” or those in certain locations are being spared and appear to be untouchable. So, they moved out to the streets in defiance of the authorities.

Such a lack of action is not good for the city. Instead of moving forward as a healthy and progressive city, it is stepping backwards. The progress of the city must not be marred by such ‘political constraints’. Ipoh City Council needs to wake up and carry out its responsibility “without fear or favour.” And the rakyat have a right to be served regardless of which political party is in power.

10 thoughts on “Political Constraints or Mere Excuses?

  1. Double standards by Ipoh City Council in enforcing the law is done in daylight. Criteria for victimization is anybodies guess.

    Instead of upgrading the DBI Terrace, they should be working on the stalls in front of the former Odean Theater where you can find huge fat rats running around in and out of the drains.

    Let me take the Ipoh City Council to Persiaran Greentown 11, where you will only get a parking ticket if you park your car in a parking bay but spared if parked illegally. Go check it out !

    They close the street at their whims and fancies without a warning, i.e. street closed on 31.12.2010 for many years on the same date, closed again on 05.02.2011. Why can’t they warn the public first? They don’t even have the courtesy to get public feedback before doing anything, i.e. before closing half of the road at the upcoming DBI terrace for the hawker stalls. I hope they have proper approvals from themselves!

    The road in front of DBI is closed many times a month. Now, try getting from Tower Regency Hotel to the Syuen Hotel, work the route out when the road in front of DBI is closed. Good luck.

    Wake up Ipoh City Council, you are doing a lousy job, make some sensible decisions for a change without being arrogant.

  2. These are the kind of clowns we get for paying the highest assessment rates in the country! Looks like the only thing that will get their fat MBI butts into action is when some sucker who’s actually stupid enough to eat at those illegal road side stalls gets rammed down by a drunk or blur driver! Also, anybody notice how the only time you actually see any MBI workers cleaning drains around housing areas is during the Chinese New Year period? This phenomenon is especially prevalent in the Ipoh Garden area! Time we not only change the bloody state government but ALSO sack the whole bunch of jokers working in the MBI!

  3. The most frustating part is the parking in this area. Just got 16 parking ‘saman’ for the last 2 months and worst still there are some new young enforcement officer now targeting Greentown area, apparently on those time expired but not along the road of those restaurant.Hopefully promotions of 50% discount at year end to pay the saman or wait for new ‘government’ to form or don’t give a dammed!

  4. Well written Jerry. A worthy article that will undoubtedly fall on deaf ears and further lame perception by the Ipoh councillors. Ipoh is in such a sorry state that has lost it’s glory and charm of pre city status.

    There’s too few good councillors left to make the difference. Shameful waste of rate payers money.

  5. The occupants have lodge a formal complaint to MBI regarding the relocation of DBI Terrace hawkers. Guess what? There were some rumours that the Datuk Bandar would come around and have a dialog with the complainants at 4pm (25 January). I said “rumours” because the occupants were not notified of his coming. To be fair to the fellow, he apparently came around Greentown Business Centre but spoke to the hawkers, asking them to keep the place clean!! I think he missed the whole point.

    Firstly, is the area outside Maybank (Persiaran Greentown 1) gazetted as a hawker area? If not, the MBI has breached its own rules. One might also argue that MBI has the right to temporary designate ‘hawking space’- if that is the case then we should vote to remove that power from the council.

    Secondly, isn’t Greentown Business Centre a premier commercial area in Ipoh? How would you like to buy a property there for over a million ringgit to operate a business, and then find out that by 6pm your parking area (both for your own and customers cars) are surrounded by chairs and tables. Ah! Perhaps the Datuk Bandar is enforcing a certain work-life balance for businesses at Greentown Business Centre – go home at 5pm and spend quality time with the family (whether you like it or not!).

    There is no malice against the hawkers- after all MBI asked them to move. If I were them, I would do the same: set up stall on the dot at 5pm.

    Thirdly, if the Datuk Bandar did come round the area on 25th January (apparently with the usual fanfare, lots of cameras and official looking cars), would it be too demeaning for him to stop by the offices of the complainants for a few minutes? Perhaps he is afraid he might get another ear-full!

    Fourthly, does the Datuk Bandar not see that parking is a real problem for businesses in this area? Now it appears the DBI Terrace is taking over some more car park lots. But I guess, when you are chauffered around all the time the city does NOT have any parking problems. After all it’s Ipoh-mah! City for retirees.

    Election day will be interesting!

  6. My friend used to be a councillor and he was always faced such such queries.

    The solution was simple.

    He told the pendatangs to open or set up similar operations right beside the Tuans. This way the pendatangs enjoyed the same immunity as the Tuan and both remained happy.

    This is how we develope 1Malaysia and spirit of muhibbah.

  7. Currently MBI is upgrading the night-hawker site at DBI Terrace.What happen now these hawkers creating problems to patrons around Greentown Business Center near Maybank and Hong Leong Bank.At 5pm they started putting their chairs/tables etc at empty parking lots around the area and also behind vehicles parked.
    Mind you the nuisance is created not far from MBI.They are short-sighted and what more on other locations far.Or they are blind.Close one eye???

  8. A related issue is putting tables and chairs on roadsides. Most people don’t know that MBI now has a policy of allowing food shops in certain areas to do this after 6.00 pm (when parking coupons are no longer needed to park). Previously this was not allowed and MBI used to confiscate the tables and chairs during enforcement, which resulted in a lot of complaints from the food shops to councilors and politicians.

    So now MBI charges the food shops according to the number of parking lots they “use”. This solution seems perfect and saves the Mayor, enforcement officers and politicians a lot of headaches. Instead of “fighting” with the food shops, why not get some revenue from them, right? Foolish!

    This doesn’t alter the fact that putting tables on roadsides is dangerous, affect the smooth flow of traffic and dirty. In many cases, vehicles are passing a mere 2 or 3 feet from the table. Tables are often placed further out onto the road, beyond the demarcation of parking lots and this makes the road narrower for vehicles. There have been incidents where cars crashed into these roadside tables.

    Fumes and dust from passing vehicles settle on the food and drinks on the tables. The main reason for making roadside food stalls to relocate into food courts is hygiene. Is putting tables and chairs on roadsides any different from roadside food stalls? Very often food scraps are swept onto the ground but not cleaned or picked up when the tables and chairs are kept when the shops close. This is left to MBI cleaning workers the next morning.

    Politics is prevalent in MBI. Unless the councilors think and do differently, this problem will continue for a long time.

  9. Thank you Jerry for higlighting this glaring happening in Ipoh. Here again we can see how cockeyed and unfair the mbi is in enforcing the rules. Rules are to be enforced equally on all irrespective of all considerations than only will the rakyaat respect and follow rules If some can get away because of certain strenghts, than sorry th rule of the jungle will apply.
    Wake up mbi and start enfocing the rules fairly on all of Ipoh to make this town a better place to live

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