Protest to have your voices heard

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It is vital for residents to form a pressure group.

It is vital for residents to form a pressure group.

By YANIKA LIEW

RECENTLY, the Valencia Homeowners Association staged a protest against a 540-unit project being developed within the township. Other homeowner associations in the surrounding areas joined in the protest.

This story is not unique. 

The Save Kuala Lumpur coalition aims to protest a 70-storey development in Bangsar and another residents’ association recently gate-crashed an environmental forum to protest the Petaling Jaya Dispersal Link elevated highway project. It seems developers across Malaysia are going ahead with their projects, and the people aren’t happy.

“The surrounding communities and townships comprising almost 2,000 homes will suffer; their quality of life will be affected,” Valencia Homeowners Association president Rena Hew said after the protest. “As it is, traffic congestion has built up due to many years without any infrastructure improvement to the roads entering the Sierramas-Valencia township.

“This development is taking place within an established township. This means that during the construction of such a high-density project, the residents will be subjected to extra noise, pollution, congestion and obstruction to and from their homes.”

Hew said the developer and the local council did not seek any feedback from residents nor hold any dialogue with them. “Hence the surrounding communities have not been able to provide any suggestion to the relevant parties,” she added.

According to Hew, many letters were sent to the council but there has been no response. The residents’ association staged its protest on March 24, 2024 and questioned how such a development could proceed without an impact analysis being done or due diligence carried out.

“The development should stop work for now until all the residents’ concerns are addressed,” she said.

Are the pleas of residents, whether in Valencia or elsewhere, falling on deaf ears? Protests help put pressure on developers, said National House Buyer Association honorary secretary-general Datuk Chang Kim Loong.

“Engage with councillors, assemblymen and cabinet ministers; elected representatives should work for voters. Demand for access to documents so that you can be heard. Put political pressure for transparency,” he stressed.

Mobilising support for such causes requires a constant push for change. Besides protests, take part in the amendment and drafting process of the local plan. For example, PLANMalaysia@Selangor is the state department of town and council planning.

“Participate in the draft local plan amendment objection process. Galvanise your neighbours because big numbers reflect seriousness,” said Chang.

The Kuala Lumpur Local Plan 2040 is being drafted. Residents can attend meetings to gain knowledge about the town planning process; it is this transparency that is missing in local councils outside KL.

Community engagement

According to Jeeva Partnership partner Datuk Shamesh Jeevaretnam, the effectiveness of protests may vary based on the circumstances.

“Protests must be carried out at the earliest juncture, for example at the planning stage or before approval by the authorities, failing which residents may have to turn to the courts. Media coverage will amplify the protest message,” he said.

A public hearing may be required to decide whether the project should go on, he noted, adding that permission from the surrounding communities is generally not needed unless the project impacts them.

“However, I strongly suggest that developers should engage with the surrounding communities through forums or exhibitions about current and future projects. This will help address concerns and build trust with the local community,” said Shamesh.

“For example, the Penang government held an exhibition at a mall to gain public trust for the Gurney Bay project,” he added.

If the surrounding communities are unhappy with any upcoming project, they can seek legal redress as an option. In 2021, the Court of Appeal delivered a landmark decision whereby public authorities were held accountable and had to ensure they properly performed their duties.

In Datuk Bandar Kuala Lumpur v Perbadanan Pengurusan Trellises & Ors, 10 appellants from Taman Tun Dr Ismail filed to quash a development order issued by the Datuk Bandar KL for eight blocks of condominiums on the Taman Rimba Kiara public park.

“The appellants filed for a judicial review application, which was initially dismissed by the High Court in 2018 but overturned by the Court of Appeal and upheld by the Federal Court on 18 April 2023. In short, the approval by Datuk Bandar KL was held to be invalid,” Shamesh said.

He noted that it was vital for residents to form a pressure group. “The group must comprise a number of professionals, including lawyers, architects and engineers, so as to understand the process of approval and engage with the authorities immediately.”

The group could then hold discussions with the developer, and all protests should be carried out at the earliest opportunity. Until community participation becomes law before a development order can be approved, these bandage solutions are the only way residents can have their voices heard.

This article was originally published on Starbiz7.


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