So, what’s next?
FIVE months ago, an eagle-eyed Petaling Jaya city councillor spotted something irregular at the monthly meeting of the one-stop centre committee. The local plan which was used as a reference when approving applications for development differed from what he had previously seen.
Derek Fernandez asked that the meeting be adjourned and investigate the emergence of three different sets of plans. In his usual exuberant and spirited self, he wanted a full investigation into how some portions of the approved plan were amended and the people involved in such a blatant show of indiscipline and waywardness.
The matter was then referred to the Selangor Select Committee on Competency, Accountability and Transparency (Selcat) which conducted an inquiry, the results of which were published last week.
Fernandez described it as the largest land fraud in the country and charged that irresponsible people within the council changed the plan to cause substantial increases in the land value.
He was criticised for leading a one-man crusade against council officials but when he testified, the truth emerged and today, he has been vindicated.
The local plan, he testified at the inquiry, was amended unlawfully twice, with some 220 unauthorised and illegal amendments involving 40 plots of land including the PKNS field.
And he dropped a bombshell when he declared: “Most of the amendments had been done in complete violation of the law and hidden from the councillors who were ‘fed a steady diet of lies’ at every meeting of the council’s one-stop centre which scrutinises applications for development.”
Using the controversial change in status of the PKNS field in Kelana Jaya as an example, Fernandez said as recreational land, it would fetch about RM20 per square foot but as commercial land, it could go as much as RM500 psf – a 25-fold increase.
Selcat’s findings were that two agencies – the Selangor Town and Country Planning Department and the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) – failed to follow procedures, resulting in three versions of the local plan.
Some amendments were added to the plan by the planning department and city council without the approval of the state executive council and the document was gazetted on Jan 13 last year. After being gazetted, the city council made 210 changes to the local plan without consulting the planning department or the state executive council and published copies of the new document on Aug 15.
Selcat chairman Datuk Teng Chang Khim has proposed that the local plan be revoked. So, is this then the end of the matter?
But for good measure, he clarified a report in theSun by saying: “We did say that they have been reckless, unprofessional and incompetent … but we did not say there’s element of cheating.”
So, what’s going to happen next? Some questions that were raised at the inquiry have not been addressed:
» Who ordered MBPJ officers to go to the Selangor Valuation Department to carry out the illegal amendments with the intention of enhancing the value of the land for certain interests?
» How did the persons involved know how to amend the zoning of 40 plots of land unless the land owners or those who had interests in the plots contacted the officers?
» Who gave the list of amendments to be made?
» How did these owners get the land and how was the land converted and the titles issued which are inconsistent with the zoning under the local plan?
If there was no element of fraud as suggested by Selcat, why then were these questions not addressed in its findings? Besides, what action is going to be taken against those who were described by Selcat as “reckless, unprofessional and incompetent”?
Is incompetency a cover for more sinister motives? Is reckless the cloak for some wheeling and dealing? Is being unprofessional akin to be deceptive? We can only read between the lines.
R. Nadeswaran spent one session at the hearing and came away with the view that the actions of the officers bordered on more than being incompetent. Comments: email@example.com