Monday, August 23, 2010

Working hard to ease Segambut's woes

Source: (By Stephanie Sta Maria, 23/8/2010)
SPECIAL REPORT ON KL Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng has been issued an ultimatum by his constituents -- either relieve Jalan Segambut of its snarling rush-hour traffic or prepare to be relieved of his seat during the next general election. It's a tall order for the first-term MP and he knows it. The perpetually congested Jalan Segambut is traversed by about 50,000 residents not just from within the constituency but also from neighbouring ones, who use it a shortcut to the city and Petaling Jaya. The already nightmarish traffic flow is further worsened by multiple roads converging into a single lane and traffic lights that confuse motorists. “I've witnessed it myself and it's terrible!” Lim nodded. “Some residents have to leave their houses as early as 6am to avoid the chaos and if they're late, the consequences include a one-hour crawl to cover a mere 100 metres.”
The solution lies in the form of a RM95 million road expansion project by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) that spans 4km and is split into two phases. The first 1.4km phase involves transforming the current single-lane road into a dual carriageway and building a flyover intersection at Jalan Segambut and the SPPK junction. It is a light at the end of the tunnel but one that irate residents have been waiting to glimpse for a decade now. Patience has been wearing thin and reached breaking point when the project appeared to face yet another delay early this year. Kuala Lumpur mayor Ahmad Fuad Ismail has asked residents not to lose faith just yet and gave his assurance that the project would start as soon as DBKL receives funding approval from the Economic Planning Unit. But this has done little to pacify Lim.
“The delay in itself is unacceptable.” he asserted. “And I blame it on the former KL mayor Abdul Hakim Borhan and former Federal Territories minister Zulhasnan Rafique. They completely messed it up.” Since taking office, Lim has been deluged with complaints from his constituents who “don't care which side you're on or how you do it but you better solve this issue fast”. Taking heed, he asked DBKL for a temporary solution, to widen the 100-m stretch from the Jalan Segambut-Jalan Jambu Mawar junction to ease the traffic bottleneck there. That request, along with three letters to the current Minister of Federal Territories and Urban Well-being Raja Nong Chik Zainal Abidin on the issue, has been met with stony silence. But Lim refrained from blaming Ahmad Fuad. “I have to give credit where it is due,” he said. “Ahmad Fuad is a good guy and is trying his best to work with us but there are hidden hands holding him back.” And here, he made no attempt to hide exactly to whom those hidden hands belonged. “Raja Nong Chik is an Umno stooge and he's ignoring Segambut because it's not under the Umno banner. Since taking office, he hasn't attended any of the quarterly meetings among the KL MPs. Instead, he said that he's had discussions with Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, which should suffice. But what does Khalid have to do with KL?” “Instead of spending time with KL MPs to understand and help fix the city's issues, he is busy bullying the Lembah Pantai MP (Nurul Izzah Anwar). It's very clear that he is only interested in snatching back Lembah Pantai for his party.”
Lim is also frustrated over the limited communication channels which, he said, had prevented him from properly explaining the situation to his constituents. Being an opposition member, he said, meant less access to the mainstream media, which has led him to turned to social media instead. “Unfortunately, this has only reached 20% of my constituents,” he noted ruefully. “The rest are still very upset with me over what they see as non-action. As far as they are concerned, they gave an opposition member a chance in a BN stronghold and nothing has changed.” And then he unexpectedly delivered a sharp rebuke to the latter group, calling them “selfish” and “insular”. “They don't care about the crime rate or flash floods in the city, they just want their issue solved,” he said. “It's understandable but there is a bigger picture here. There are innocent people dying in police custody. And squatters who have been waiting for a new home for 20 years. So don't come down hard on me over a road.”
A squatter dilemma
Traffic congestion is only the tip of the Segambut's woes. The other two issues trailing it are the squatter situation and the rising crime rate. While Lim is counting his lucky stars that the squatter issue in Segambut is nowhere near as serious as that in Lembah Pantai or Titiwangsa, he is also scratching his head over an unusual quandary. “The squatters in Segambut are confined to two areas – Kampung Sungai Penchala and Kampung Segambut Dalam,” he said. “Almost all are illegal immigrants who have set up longhouses in the hillside and back lanes.” The irony, he explained, is that the local residents are happy to live alongside them and have even asked Lim to leave the squatters alone because they are “good people”. Lim expressed admiration for their benevolence, but added that he could not turn a blind eye towards what he considers a potentially serious issue. Already, the squatters have integrated themselves into the community by setting up their own sundry shops and eateries by the road. “It almost seems like KL is an outlaw country!” said Lim. “I don't want Segambut to be a small-scale Sabah where half the population are foreigners. So every quarter of the year, I file a complaint with immigration, the police and DBKL. And here's where it gets interesting.”
“The police will conduct a raid in the morning, detain the squatters and release them by evening. It has become a routine. These days I feel reluctant to lodge a report because I'm merely creating an opportunity for the authorities to... you know what I mean.”
Not less crime, just fewer reports
As for the crime rate, not a day passes without a break-in, snatch theft or robbery sullying his constituency. Lim pours scorn on KL chief of police Muhammad Sabtu Osman's report of a 30% drop in the KL crime rate during the first two months of this year. “It's not the crime rate that has fallen but the number of police reports made because people have lost confidence in the police,” Lim opined. “And the crime rate in Segambut is solely the government's doing.” According to Lim, certain plots of land in Segambut which belong to the ministry and DBKL were once earmarked as sites for police stations. One plot is in Sri Hartamas and the other in Sri Sinar. The former now functions as a hawker centre while a badminton court and hypermarket sit on the latter.
“I confronted the former minister about this and he admitted that the sites were meant for police stations,” Lim said. “He told me that neither the police nor the government had funds to build one so rather than leave the land vacant, they decided to sublet it to generate income. This is the nonsense that's going on.” “I've also repeatedly asked Bukit Aman and the Home Ministry to set up mobile police stations or even pondok polis in the area but nothing has been done. The only development has been in Taman Sri Sinar where a police officer begged me to ask Bukit Aman to send more personnel to his station.” “Apparently, he is the only officer on duty during the day and is obviously unable to be at two crime scenes at one time. I put in the complaint and two officers have since been sent over. But the rest of the police stations in my constituency are severely understaffed.”
Forging ahead
Aside from putting pressure on the authorities, Lim also has two ideas which he believes would reduce the crime rate in Segambut. The first involves the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at 1km intervals. He has already submitted this proposal to the government only to have it shot down due to the projected high cost.

But Lim is undeterred; he is pressing forward with his second proposal: setting up an official Neighbourhood Watch. This would be different from the Rukun Tetangga, which he called a “failed project”. Even so, there was a hint of pride in his voice when he said that Malaysia's first Rukun Tetangga (RT) was set up in Segambut. But then his tone changed as he added that the centre is now locked up. “The RT people in Segambut are all from BN,” he said. “And since the government allocates RM600 a month to maintain and run an active RT centre, they hold a function there once a month and then lock it up again.” On his Neighbourhood Watch idea, Lim explained that it would require residents to contribute a certain sum to the Residents' Association for the hiring of guards to be stationed at each entry point into the residential area. This initiative is already in full swing in his residential area. “Some 90% of the residents are in favour but the 10% – who are senior citizens – can overturn the whole project,” he said. “In Taman Tun Dr Ismail, the senior citizens hated the guards monitoring the comings and goings of their guests, so they complained to DBKL and Bukit Aman and that was the end of it.”
Segambut isn't the ideal initiation constituency for a first-term MP and two years is long enough to decide whether you're in or out of the game. Lim doesn't have to think twice. He's in it for the long haul. “Maybe it's my youth,” he laughed, then turned serious. “I genuinely enjoy the challenge. But because I'm not part of the ruling government, I can't promise much on the infrastructure. What I will guarantee is to fight corruption and push for fairness and transparency in government agencies.”
While on the subject of government agencies, he was quick to commend DBKL and Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor (Syabas) for their services. “Not many MPs say this but I am actually happy with DBKL,” he said. “I can honestly say that out of 10 complaints, it has resolved eight. The two unresolved ones could be due to political intervention or a genuine lack of resources.” “As for Syabas, it is the best government agency I have worked with. I would even call it superb! It responds to every single complaint with a report of its investigations and the action it will take and resolves the problem within 12 hours. If all government agencies followed suit, there would be many very happy MPs and constituents.”
Watch video here:

No comments: