Friday, September 05, 2008

Our democracy and Land of Lawlessness

"All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." - George Orwell

That quote comes from a (GREAT) book called Animal Farm. It is an allegory written as a reflection of Stalinist USSR, and strongly against the communism therein. The animals realize their strength and oust the humans from the farm. However in spite of the "everyone is equal" philosophy initially, the society ends up very unequal, and the "everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others" means that even in a society where theoretically everyone is equal, the fact is that it is NOT an equal society, and "more equal" equates to "unequal" or "superior".

While watching Mc Cain's acceptance speech, I read the below article. America is a great country for whatever reasons and Malaysia is a great country as well, but between the two, there are vast differences, beside one being world super power and the other one still a 'developing country going for a developed nation status' under a weak leadership.

One huge gap is the way they 'promote' and practice so-called democracy system. Of course both have flaws and shortcomings but we can learn from both systems to judge for the better one.

This USA presidential election gives the grassroots, i.e. every citizen the right to vote for the highest job in the land. While in Malaysia to choose a PM, this exclusive right is a previlege for a bunch of party members and even worse, in turns out to be choice of the incumbent PM (in selecting his successor).

That is why we want change in our political system!

Land of lawlessness

FIRST it was low-cost land alienated to the wife of an assemblyman to build their mansion. Then, land earmarked for a food court was given to a town councillor to establish a commercial complex. Elsewhere, school reserve land was leased for a beer garden. Now we have seven parcels of land meant for public amenities – including that for a surau (is nothing sacred anymore?) – given away to political parties and businessmen.
Hot on the heels of these revelations, we have a businessman and former senior government servant who with the blessings of City Hall and the Federal Territory Land Office built a bungalow on the cul-de-sac of a public road!
This home owner probably wanted to have VIP neighbours since nearby are the homes of a bank’s top official and a senior member of the government.
Then we have poor families being evicted from land they have been squatting on for three generations, only to be crammed into a two-bedroom flat. A farmer who has been cultivating on government land for 20 years is one day told that his Temporary Occupation Licence has expired and he would have to move.
Over in Petaling Jaya, lease on several parcels of land are coming to the end of their tenure and it would cost homeowners in the region of RM100,000 to RM500,000 to renew them. Yet, Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia (Gerakan) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) managed to obtain prime real estate in swanky Bandar Utama, the former at far below market value.
Ownership of the Tamil school land is in dispute notwithstanding MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu’s "I stole it, it’s my grandfather’s land" outburst. The party has since said that the whole thing was an "administrative error". But this does not change the fact that land meant for a school has been alienated to a major political party.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the legacy of the previous Selangor state administrations. From far back (as far as investigations show) as Tan Sri Abu Hassan Omar to his successor Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo.
With an entity called Majlis Tindakan Ekonomi Selangor – whose executive powers were later deemed illegal by the High Court – which identified public land for plundering; and a rubber stamp called the Executive Council (Exco) which meets every Wednesday to sign off on alienation of land for a song, the whole state was up for grabs.
Of course the whole process is "legitimised" by executive councillors declaring their interests and leaving the meeting room, as was the case with state Gerakan chief Datuk Lum Weng Keong who excused himself during the deliberations for Gerakan to take over land meant for a telecoms exchange in 2002.
Now, if the whole process is indeed legit, how come only Gerakan seemed to have known of the fact that Telekom Malaysia had given up its interest in that land? How come the residents, many of whom bought their property based on the Master Plan had not known of this change in plans?
And how come only the MIC knew about the "available" school land? In both these instances, was there something called "insider information" because both parties were represented at the state executive council level?
Housebuyers in Bandar Utama would have taken into consideration traffic dispersals and density upon buying their homes. Let’s face it, there is a huge difference in the magnitude of traffic volume and density between a telecommunications exchange and an eight-storey commercial building.
Whatever happened to the provisions in the National Land Code, the Town and Country Planning Act and the Local Government Act that call for due process in executing the rezoning of the use of a parcel of land, the consultation with residents and that market premiums be paid?
Anything less is in contradiction of the law and goes against good governance, you know, Local Agenda 21 and all things nice that the politicians and administrators like to spew out whenever they try to garner votes and support.
It is also a testament of the "kautim" mentality that has been permeating in this "developed state" where the rule books and common decency are thrown out the window as following the letter of the law and being obedient to the call of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he was deputy premier to gazette all open spaces – are impediments to giving certain individuals their "dues".
Terence is deputy editor (special reports & investigations) at theSun.