WHAT initially started off as a safety initiative by residents to make their houses more secure, or in the words of one resident, “the robber will think twice before entering my house”, has not only put Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) in a tight spot, but has divided communities and inconvenienced residents to the point they feel like an outsider in their own neighbourhood.
Two years after the Federal Court legalised the placing of boom gates across public roads and guardhouses in residential areas, the walls have literally gone up in every neighbourhood in Kuala Lumpur.
Barriers in the form of manual and automated boom gates, steel barricades, perimeter fencing, steel drums, cones, and even retired motor tyres have been used by residents associations (RAs) to block public roads leading into residential homes from intruders and the public.
In March 2015, a five-member panel chaired by Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin decreed in the case of Au Kean Hoe against D’Villa Equestrian Residents Association that regulated access to a defined area was not an obstruction in law, particularly if it was for security reasons.
He said guardhouses and boom gates were authorised structures under the Town and Country Planning Act 1976; the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 and the Local Government Act 1976.
The judges, however, added that it was only illegal if a person was denied access to a public place, unlike Au’s home, which was a certified gated-and-guarded scheme.
“Gated communities” means the particular development, its facilities and services including infrastructure (roads, drains, etc) within the development are privately managed and owned.
Usually some form of physical barrier surrounds the boundaries to the development.
By contrast, guarded communities refer to communities where residents employ private security to provide security services to an area which includes public spaces.
Advocates of this security barrier have used the verdict to validate their reasons to put up security barriers, even at areas that were not certified as gated communities.
It certainly made things worse for DBKL as there was a rush by RAs to establish their own security scheme with boom gates, security fences, perimeter fencing and guard houses.
Residents even registered their associations with the Registrar of Societies (ROS) and put up barriers almost immediately without fulfilling DBKL guidelines.
According to DBKL, from 2011 to July 2017, 158 residents associations in Kuala Lumpur implemented the guarded security scheme, but only approved 65.
This means 58.8% of the RAs are operating their security scheme illegally.
While DBKL was willing to accommodate the requests as permitted by law, clearly the situation got out of hand at some neighbourhoods today.
Bukit Bandaraya resident Mitra Logan said some of the barricades were questionable.
“Steel fencing permanently block public roads, including roads that lead to public parks, sports facilities and schools,’’ she said.
This proliferation of “walled” communities, Mitra said, was having far-reaching consequences on a community and, in some cases, divided residents.
“I live in Bangsar and sometimes I am treated like an outsider in my own neighbourhood.
“It’s even worse when family and friends visit. They are made to feel like criminals,’’ she said, adding that her sister was asked to produce her ID by the guard.
“What happens if there is a medical emergency or fire, the ambulance and fire engines cannot access the area because someone decided to permanently close up a public road?
Senior citizens Peter Yap, 67, and Ronnie Loh, 59, from Taman Desa complained that the nearest route to their neighbourhood playground was permanently blocked by a steel gate.
“So now, instead of walking to my park, I have to drive there,’’ Yap lamented.
“It never used to be this way,’’ Loh said, adding that it was inconvenient and illegal.
Residents of Desa Aman Cheras who do not pay for the neighbourhood security scheme claim that they are forced to use a different road when entering and exiting their homes, which violates their rights as residents.
Following a barrage of complaints from unhappy residents, StarMetro went to the ground to check out the problem.
Re-auditing security schemes
Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz said neighbourhoods with guarded schemes approved by DBKL would be checked again and re-audited.
He said the scheme was implemented to improve public safety and security, and never should it be an excuse to break the law.
“We need to relook at some of the guarded schemes as there is certainly room for improvement, particularly in cases where public roads are blocked,” he said.
While there is no law allowing DBKL to approve the scheme, the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry allows it to be implemented with only 51% consent from residents.
“We set the bar at 80% (consent rating), but we can be flexible depending on situations,’’ said Amin Nordin, adding that in many instances the local authority allowed the scheme with only 50% of the residents' agreement but it was subjected to many factors.
DBKL Urban Transportation Department director Abd Hamid Surip said some RAs were allowed to instal auto gates with electronic access card as long as the RAs were able to manage the situation.
“The problem starts when there is a payment issue and the RAs use the system to punish non-payers,’’ he said, adding that dividing communities was not DBKL’s intention.
He added that it was important to ensure that non-paying residents were not penalised in any way or even made to feel like outsiders in their own area.
“You cannot stop a person from entering a public road and there should never be segregation in any way that could lead to animosity among the residents,” he stressed.
Abd Hamid said roads leading to public facilities such as schools, religious institutions, public parks, sports facilities and community halls cannot be cordoned off.
“You cannot prevent anyone from getting to this places and you cannot permanently seal off any public road,’’ he said.
He added that if there was a strong request from residents to close a road, only a local road would be considered and the RA must offer an alternative route for residents and the public which must be a reasonable distance not exceeding 150m. That is also subject to the RA securing 100% consent from residents.
“You see it is not easy to simply close roads in the city, we make it very hard to do so,’’ he said.
Abd Hamid said DBKL had demolished illegal barriers in Taman Desa twice in a row, but the persons involved put them (gates) up yet again.
He added that some RAs would bring in their lawyers to argue their point during meetings to justify their reasons (for blocking roads).
“Even I was asked to provide ID when carrying out a site visit in a guarded community in Jalan Kemaris Bangsar recently.
“I was travelling in a DBKL car,’’ Abd Hamid said, adding that it was illegal to ask a person to hand over their MyKad.
“While we realise the need for people to feel secure in their own homes, there is no doubt that RAs are struggling to manage the scheme properly and this has resulted in conflict and disagreements, which is not what we anticipated’’ he said.