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12 theSun | THURSDAY JULY 9 2009

INTERVIEWS VIEWS conversations

Councillor in charge
CRUSADING PETALING JAYA CITY COUNCILLOR DEREK
FERNANDEZ TELLS LLEW-ANN PHANG HE IS JUST
A REGULAR RATEPAYER WHO HAPPENS TO BE AN
AUTHORITY ON PLANNING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
So, one year on, how are you are related to old problems but Redistribute the wealth equita-
doing? as far as new problems are bly.
There have been changes but concerned, there is the highest
not to the extent people have level of public participation in Do you think some services
hoped for. And one of the dif- planning matters. The decisions should be re-nationalised?
ficulties lies in the poor relation- are balanced, they are more There’s absolutely no justifica-
ship between the federal and transparent. We invite every- tion for privatisation in the
state governments, and the civil body to come – they can speak Malaysian context. When you
service – those guys need serious and ask questions. So certainly, privatise the profit making and
structural reform as they’re used in those areas there has been leave the loss making to the local
to certain practices and are not improvement. But generally, the government, that’s “piratisation”.
willing to change. management of people’s money We’ve been running all along
The vision of the new govern- is still at a risky level. There is our rubbish services, our sewage
ment requires massive change not enough oversight and many services, and the government
in thinking in terms of who you people are resistant about chang- was running water. There’s
serve – the rakyat – they must ing financial accountability. A lot no reason to have given it out.
come first in everything but of resources are being spent to These should all be taken back A lot of good ideas are turned you’re going to get a lot of people
these people are not ready for cure problems of the past. and a commission of inquiry down because people have who are not going to make ends
that. They pay lip service but So I hope people are patient. be established to see whether vested interests. I called for the meet and are going to be suscep-
in truth they’re not ready. And They must understand that 30 there was anything improper. If revamp of the tender board sys- tible to corruption.
there are powerful interest and years of doing something one necessary, this thing should be tem. There should be civil serv-
lobby groups that continue to way can’t be undone in a year or taken back, but not to the extent ants; there should be members One of the biggest issues in
feel it’s business as usual. two. It requires a more sustained of bankrupting the public. of each political party, the NGOs, MBPJ is asset management.
pace and people who are not even residents associations. The First of all, I don’t think MBPJ
Is the public expecting much performing have to be removed. So MBPJ has no money? more people look at the problem, has got a list of assets. Coming
after one year? The government must no longer PJ is not too bad as we have the less likely there’ll be abuse. from the private sector, we’re
Many don’t know how to dif- rely totally on civil servants. enough revenue but smaller But this will be done in the next laughing. How on earth did you
ferentiate between local, state They must bring in outside councils can’t balance their term. manage so far without these
and federal governments. They professionals. books. So the political will must basic tools? Basic management
think everything is the same, we be there and the government What about spending con- tools, basic audit tools. We have
can get it done. So because of the Especially at local council should take top advice. They trols? formed an audit and corporate
inability to compartmentalise level? should look at people who can Very poor. There are lack of governance committee this is the
whose duty is what, it sometimes Yes. You cannot rely anymore on give independent advice and There are priorities in budget allocation. I first of the many firsts. In terms
leads to over-expectations. Look
at crime. They shout at the local
civil servants. They’re too used to
doing things a certain way. You
question every information dis-
seminated.
lots of give this department this much
money, it should prioritise what
of public participation, in the
planning processes, we’re one of
authority when policing crime need outside consultants. We interest is important. And excess money the first. We not only inform the
is the function of the police. All need to run a modern city with What has happened to the im- should be saved. The sort of gov- neighbouring landowners, we
this neighbourhood watches are some expertise. And there is a lot plementation of local council groups ernment policy to spend all the allow everybody to comment.
a lot of garbage because if you
don’t have enough manpower
of expertise in Malaysia. elections?
I don’t know why the delay. The
who don’t money in one year is ridiculous.
The tools for change have not
We’re one of the first to open
town hall meetings. So certainly
no amount of effort by the com- What are some of the biggest first way is to elect the mayor want a been put in place after a year. we’re doing a lot but we’re not
munity will solve the problem. challenges facing good gov- and that can be done easily. At getting the kind of backup that
The police must have more ernance? least there is some form of elec- good It would be unfair to pin the we need. There’re too many
manpower but the people get
angry with the local authorities.
The equitable distribution of
wealth is becoming a hot issue in
tion because this was a change
that was promised so it should
public blame solely on civil servants.
You should blame the lack of
obstacles and I suppose the
obstacles are artificial because
They want to put up barricades. terms of contracts and employ- be done. transport political will on the new guys there’s a lack of knowledge
I understand, they’re frightened ment. The government must at the top. and political will. Knowledge
but they must know whom to decide whether there is going to But the state government’s system. The civil service and its inability is a factor because much of the
blame. The problem is lack of
deployment of sufficient police-
be an affirmative action policy. excuse is that it needs federal
approval.
They to reform urgently is a factor but
the political will must be there.
leadership does not know what’s
going on at the grassroots. How
men. What about development? There’s no need to fiddle with all financially The political (will) seems to be money is stolen, how books
Planning control is one of the the laws because the guys who lacking and I don’t understand are manipulated and what are
Crime aside, you can’t fault the biggest headaches. Petaling Jaya are against this will say there’s benefit why because this is a simple the necessary mechanisms and
people for demanding basic
services.
is over-developed. Infrastructure
has collapsed. Everybody wants
some law that says we can’t do
it.
from a matter. For example, when you
spend money at a local council,
tools to stop this. The constant
referral to federal government
Of course, it’s understandable. to build there. The public trans- failed who decides how much you guidelines on financing is a joke
They wake up, see garbage un- port system is not functioning Speaking of which, you have a spend on an item? This is left to because those guidelines are not
collected for three days. They and again this is a problem with lot to say about legislation … transport people without proper checks implemented effectively. There’s
expect it to be collected. So I
don’t think it’s over expectations
the federal government. It should
realise that the inability to pro-
There are a lot of rubbish laws
which have to be amended.
system. done. no oversight function to stop this
kind of money from going out.
but sometimes they blame the vide an effective public transport There should be a full-time That’s where councillors are Thirty years on, people are
wrong people. In that sense, their system will inhibit development job to un-do a lot of things. supposed to come in. asking the same questions:
expectations are high. I suppose of land. I do not know why the Leasehold, freehold is another The idea of having part-time How come the drains are not
they expected sudden change. federal government has not ad- issue, handling of land owner- councillors is a joke. You can’t cleaned? How come the garbage
There’re also issues of equitable dressed this matter. There are ship. There are viable models run a modern city with part-tim- is not collected? We should not
distribution, they expected things lots of interest groups who don’t whereby government can make ers. You need full-time, salaried be having councillors looking at
to be done faster but they must want a good public transport a lot of money. individuals. Paying your council- drains, like I do. These should
understand this system has been system. They benefit financially People are willing to pay lors RM750 to put in four days a have been done by the heads of
built over many years. Even if from a failed transport system. a premium to convert their week will ultimately create a sys- department failing which, just
you take over a public company leasehold into freehold. The tem where corruption will thrive. sack the fellows, that’s all. They
which is badly run, you’ll not be And privatisation agreements? government is being ill-advised Basically the system is designed need to change, if not get another
able to turn it over in a year. It’ll This is the biggest challenge by civil servants who say “oh to make people corrupt. Because job. Nobody is irreplaceable.
be some four to five years before faced by local governments you’re mortgaging the gov- no person can stand putting in
you see some improvement, so – one-sided agreements that do ernment’s long-term revenue the kind of hours and the kind of Are you implying that you’ve
they have to be patient. not give any benefit to the gov- by giving freehold”. That is work they do. PJ has dedicated got incompetent people run-
ernment but all the liabilities. I rubbish because if you allow a councillors but I don’t know how ning the council?
Why did you agree to be a call them “piratisation” agree- conversion fee of say 50% the long they can stand. I’ve been Certainly! When I need to get a
councillor? ments where all the benefits go difference in market value, the fortunate because I have a pro- job done, there’s a lot of bureau-
I often spoke about planning and to the special interests groups. government would get billions fessional practice but how long cratic rubbish and at the end
development controls. I often We have substantial agree- in cash upfront. In 99 years can my partner sit down and say of the day, you can’t get the job
protested. And I thought the ments in Selangor where we see that money will be worth tons ‘Why you’re spending four days done. If I want to get it done, I
best way to implement change a lot of the cream of the non-rate more and you can increase as- a week there, not sitting and do- have to sit there everyday, call the
is by being there. Instead of revenue subcontracts has been sessment and quit rent. Make it ing your business?’ contractors, shout at them. This
fighting them, work with them taken out and the local authority optional and everybody will be is not the way to solve problems.
and try to implement change. In does not enjoy the income and happy because they feel they’ve So your business is affected Basically all the old practices are
areas where I’ve been allowed to has to suck on the ratepayer. got a stake. since you became councillor? being continued and there’s no
operate, we’ve seen significant The government should Everybody’s business is affected. substantial change.
change, like in town and country take a strong stand to cancel all Aren’t these ideas put forward Of course you say public duty,
planning. Most of our problems contracts against public policy. to the decision makers? sacrifice but if you keep this up, Well if they continue like this,