DURING the last week of December 2018, I received a call from a fruit seller by the name of Ooi Ah Boy.
The 72-year-old woman was crying uncontrollably over the phone and was clearly distraught.
She had been running a little stall in Little India for over 40 years, with six other traders who were there for just as long.
She called to tell me that they received a notice from the Federal Territory Land and Mines Office (PTG) to vacate the premises within two weeks, failing which they would be fined or even jailed under the National Land Code 1965.
I found this very strange. Ooi and her friends were operating inside a government building, with trading licences issued by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).
They are by no means trespassers, squatters or illegals.
So you can imagine their shock when the PTG officers came to paste the red notices on their stalls.
The officers later told me they did so because the land’s temporary occupation licence (TOL), renewed yearly by DBKL, expired. PTG would not extend it.
You see, while DBKL owns the building and issued the licence, the land belonged to PTG.
I found it it even stranger that DBKL officers, and the mayor himself, were not notified of the eviction.
It is after all a DBKL-owned structure built at a whopping RM1mil of taxpayers’ money.
KL mayor Datuk Nor Hisham Ahmad Dahlan was rather annoyed that he was kept in the dark about PTG’s decision.
A man with a big heart, he wanted to renew the TOL so that Ooi and her friends who were in their twilight years could continue to make a living.
But sadly, PTG rejected the mayor’s application with no reason given.
All this made me wonder, when it comes to overlapping jurisdiction of government agencies, what would the proper SOP be?
Wouldn’t it have been more prudent for these two government agencies to talk to each other before taking any action?
And what’s with the silo mentality?
This DBKL-PTG conflict is a case of “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing”.
Such silo behaviour is quite rampant in the civil service, much to the detriment of Kuala Lumpur folk.
The most damaging instance can be seen recently in the land scandal involving a new building in Medan Imbi in Bukit Bintang and a restaurant operating on a road divider in Bangsar.
Now, unlike the Little India incident, these two plots were government reserve land meant for open spaces and road reserve respectively.
Both plots of land belonged to PTG, but were handed out to a third party on a silver platter to do whatever they pleased.
In a press conference last month, Federal Territories (FT) Minister Khalid Abdul Samad disclosed that DBKL granted the necessary approvals for the Medan Imbi plot, despite it belonging to PTG.
He said minutes of a meeting showed that the former FT minister instructed DBKL officers to “handle the matter.”
My question is, where were the PTG officers when this happened?
When the matter was brought up at the DBKL OSC (one-stop-centre) meeting attended by different government agencies including PTG, why did they not speak up and oppose the project?
Why did they ignore the warning signs that the plot was literally being hijacked by a private entity?
PTG cannot claim it was unaware of this land deal.
If, and that is a big if, for some reason the officers were not present at the meeting and failed to get the minutes, I am almost certain that they would have eventually found out about it when StarMetro exposed the issue on March 6, 2017 (see flashback).
PTG would have known that the land was being illegally developed by a third party.
I mean, if that was my land, I would fight tooth and nail to stop the development and take it back.
In fact, my colleagues and I tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with PTG for comments.
When we reported the news, the building was still under construction. The project could have been halted had there been some men of good conscience in the government who did not blindly take orders.
I cannot believe that even when Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun brought the issue up in Parliament several times in 2017 and later lodged an MACC report, PTG still refused to act.
PTG and its officers must come clean and explain themselves. You guys are entrusted to safeguard the city’s green spaces and you owe the ratepayers an explanation.
Therefore, I find it mind-boggling that PTG was quick to go after defenceless old folk, yet choose to look the other way when their land was being developed illegally.
This is why I believe there is more to this issue than meets the eye. If it involves any high-ranking politicians from the previous government, now is the time to do the right thing and speak up.
And I truly hope they will do the right thing for Ooi Ah Boy and her friends.