BY SHERIDAN MAHAVERA
May 16, 2014
A storm of shouts, heckling and theatrics stopped a meeting between Petaling Jaya (PJ) residents and the developer of a controversial elevated expressway from Kinrara to Damansara, held at the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) banquet hall tonight.
The meeting was a no-go the moment that an officer from Kidex, the developer of the highway, used the term "townhall meeting" in her opening remarks as the master of ceremony to describe the gathering.
This immediately sparked tensions between the 200 residents and the company's representatives which saw some members of the crowd jumping to their feet to halt the meeting from proceeding to discuss the RM2.4 billion project.
According to several MBPJ officials, residents and elected representatives in the audience who took to the microphone, the crowd objected to tonight's gathering being classified as a townhall meeting as the company had no legal right to hold one.
PJ residents are objecting to the 14.9-kilometre expressway as 3,784 lots are affected by a land sale freeze. The developers have said that only 380 lots will be acquired.
Reports said for its length, the Kidex is the country’s most expensive highway yet at RM148 million per kilometre to construct.
The 7.7km fully-elevated Ampang-Kuala Lumpur Elevated Highway (Akleh) was completed in 2001 for RM98 million per kilometre. Kidex costs 50% more per km. Both AKLEH and the future Kidex are two-lane dual carriageways.
Another project, the partly elevated and much wider Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway (Duke) cost even less to construct at just RM65 million per kilometre while the Kidex costs 2.3 times that.
Kidex chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus said the company was holding the gathering to meet demands which it claimed had been put on them by MBPJ.
One of those demands, Mohd Nor said, was to hold a “town hall meeting” to present the proposed highway project to residents and gather their feedback.
The inflamed emotions tonight reflect the deep resentment among PJ residents to the multi-billion project, which will transform the landscape of one of the densest cities in Malaysia.
The expressway, which billed as a sky way, will tower over houses, schools and some of the busiest highways in the Klang valley as weaves itself from Kinrara in the south to Bandar Utama in the north. The residents' opposition to the project is stiff and made more severe by feelings that they have been betrayed by the politicians they had elected into the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) Selangor government.
The drama at tonight’s meeting started soon after the master of ceremony used the word town hall meeting which prompted resident Mak Khuin Weng, to immediately stand up to object.
“This is not a MBPJ meeting. We have already been told that this is not an MBPJ as the MBPJ should be with us and not with you. This is a public meeting with Kidex and not with MBPJ.”
The audience erupted in applause for Mak and boos for Kidex.
A few residents, who were also activists in the Say-No-To-Kidex committee, then stormed to the table where the company’s representatives and its consultants were sitting to demand that the concessionaire firm retract its use of the term.
The activists then argued and bickered with the company’s representatives including Mohd Nor.
MPBJ enforcement personnel were rushed in to pry apart fist-waving residents from exasperated company officials. The audience held up banners that said “No to Kidex” and shouted “No to Kidex”.
Things seemed to settle down when MBPJ councillor Lee Suet Sen took the microphone to clarify and assure residents that the gathering was not a formal town hall meeting.
Lee explained it was merely a briefing by Kidex officials and an opportunity for residents to forward their concerns to the developer.
“This is not part of the statutory process to amend the local draft plan. Kidex has yet to convince MBPJ that this is a good project for the residents.”
The company then backed down from using the term “town hall meeting”. Kidex chief executive officer Mohd Nor then said the gathering would be a briefing for residents on the project.
“We will not proceed with the town hall meeting. If you all want, we can still do a briefing tonight.”
But another resident then harangued the company over why notice for the meeting was sent at the last minute and why was it only given out to resident associations and People Volunteer Committees (Rukun Tetangga).
A resident, who gave his name as Charles from Section 5, said the notice should have been posted on billboards through-out the affected areas a week in advance so that as many residents can attend.
When the company’s responses failed to pacify the audience, one of its officers then declared that the briefing was over.
When met afterwards, MBPJ councillor Lee explained that a legal town hall meeting can only be held by the local council itself and its residents in order to get public feedback for a proposed project.
This is a necessary step under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 to amend the council’s draft local plan and be approved by a local council.
But to date Lee said, MBPJ refuses to hold a town hall meeting until it receives documents from Kidex concerning assessments of how traffic will be affected by the project.
“We don’t want to have a town hall meeting without all the information about the project because then we cannot address the residents’ concerns.” – May 16, 2014.
Footnote: Charles corrected himself mid-speech and said he's from Section 14, Petaling Jaya. - IT.Scheiss
What happened at Kidex briefing – David Yoong
May 18, 2014
The Kidex briefing called by Kidex at the MBPJ Civic Centre on Friday was widely reported as a heated affair between Petaling Jaya residents and Kidex officials.
The Say No to Kidex (SNTK) committee would like to put on record that we had put in every effort to stave off the confrontation that occurred on Friday night with letters, emails and electronic messages to the council, councillors and our elected representatives to ensure that the meeting that was being called for had no legal implications whatsoever and that it was strictly a briefing.
However, the presence of MBPJ engineering department director Ismail Shafie on stage with Kidex officials and the emcee's announcement that the meeting "is part of the due process in the implementation of Kidex into the Selangor State Structural Plan” dictated otherwise.
This was not what the invitation said and to attempt to frame it in such a manner was disingenuous of both Kidex Sdn Bhd and MBPJ.
Kidex Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Mohd Nor Idrus himself proved the point when he said the meeting was part of the demand they had to fulfil from the Selangor government to hold a public consultation hearing and that he would rather not have a consultation if he could get away with it.
"When he asked me, Datuk, to do a briefing, I said 'No' because I'm required, I'm instructed by the (Selangor) state (government) to have this town hall meeting... because we are not in the position to invite the YBs, ADUNs, councillors because it is not us... If possible, I don't want to have a town hall meeting.”
To further back up Kidex's assertion that it was indeed a valid town hall meeting, they produced a letter from Ismail stating clearly that the town hall meeting was called on behalf of MBPJ and that it was with the agreement of MBPJ deputy mayor Puasa Md Taib and councillor Lee Suet Sen.
For Kidex, the meeting was only a matter of fulfilling the requirements set by the Selangor government and pushing the project forward with an additional agenda to include the project in the Selangor State Structure Plan.
The Selangor State Structure Plan is not a document to be trifled with as it is a statutory document that has numerous legal implications, one of which is the understanding that anything mentioned within becomes a promise that would be implemented by the government.
What was actually transpiring at the time had been totally contradictory to what was promised by the politicians and the SNTK committee had no choice but to intervene and call for a point of order, which we could not present without shouting as the microphones next to the residents were turned off and subsequently removed.
The SNTK committee wish to reiterate that we are not intentionally confrontational but were provoked into action because of the attempt at misrepresentation that would have hoodwinked Petaling Jaya residents of their rights.
We would like to impress upon the Selangor assemblymen and the MBPJ councillors that the sequence of events leading up to the confrontation painted them as either not in control of their own government (at best) or untruthful (at worst).
As ratepayers, we deserve an answer to the conduct of the local council and expect the full investigation into the miscommunication. – May 18, 2014.
* David Yoong is secretary of the Say No To Kidex committee.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.