It was a busy first year for the former Subang Jaya Municipal Council (MPSJ) president who inherited long-standing problems that have been the bane of previous mayors.
When he took over at the helm of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), the local authority was embroiled in allegations of mismanagement and corruption involving issues such as land grabs and interference from politicians.
In an exclusive interview with StarMetro, the mayor spoke candidly of the challenges he had to face over the past 12 months since taking over from Tan Sri Mohd Amin Nordin Abd Aziz.
Tackling old issues
“When I took over, there was this expectation that I was going to right wrongs and put everything right.
“But, things are not that easy because I inherited a lot of problems that have become a big challenge for me and my staff,” Nor Hisham said.
“Take the Jinjang Selatan Tambahan issue as an example, which was highlighted in your newspaper (The Star),” he said, pointing to the stack of newspapers on his desk.
“That issue is a long-standing one that spans 15 years involving several mayors, but people expect us to resolve it in a few months,” he said.
Nor Hisham, 63, also spoke about the development orders issued by DBKL during the time of his predecessors.
“We cannot reverse things (cancel development orders) as there are contractual obligations and legal implications.
“And we are already being sued by various parties because we wanted to do the right thing.
“Irrespective of corruption allegations or otherwise, we cannot interfere now as some of the cases are already in court,” he said.
DBKL is embroiled in lawsuits amounting to millions of ringgit with several parties, including unhappy contractors over its decision to terminate contracts that it considered “lopsided” which enriched certain parties.
Don’t play blame game
Nor Hisham said he could not play the blame game as there was a lot of work to be done but very little time to do it.
“You ask if I have regrets. Well, my one regret is not having enough time to do what I want to do,” he said.
“Which is why I dislike finger pointing when things go wrong as I find it a waste of time. What’s the point of harping on past issues when it serves no purpose?’’
Nor Hisham said DBKL was often blamed for many things that go wrong.
“From potholes to felled trees, we are accused of being responsible, even if it had nothing to do with us,’’ he said.
Another thing that irks him is how people react to the news they get on social media.
“People like sharing fake and recycled news from the past, but we get drawn into them and precious time is wasted. I want all that to stop,” he said.
“It’s human nature to blame someone for something. Everyone seems to want someone’s head to roll.
“Instead of blaming each other, let’s work together and solve the problems,” he said.
The mayor recounted a recent incident where seven traders operating in Little India almost had their stalls demolished by the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur Land and Mines Office (PTGWP) which inadvertently gave DBKL a bad name.
“PTGWP was carrying out the operation, DBKL was merely lending logistical and manpower support.
“That (incident) could have been avoided if there was proper communication with the area’s MP as per the SOP requested by the FT Minister,” he said.
In any demolition exercise, government agencies must liaise with the MPs on the matter so that there is accountability and transparency.
“Bringing in bulldozers without talking to the local MP is not our way,” he said.
Going to the ground
The mayor also spoke about wanting to have an effective working relationship with his DBKL colleagues and draw on everyone’s strengths and expertise to make Kuala Lumpur a liveable city.
Nor Hisham takes inspiration from the 2018 cave rescue incident in Thailand, where 12 members of a junior football team was trapped in the Tham Luang Nang Non Cave for over two weeks from June 23 to July 10.
“I am constantly inspired by that cave rescue where everyone, the authorities, expert international divers and NGOs all came together, working towards one goal; to rescue those children.
“I seek that kind of effective working relationship with DBKL staff, to come together and solve problems.
“I am the mayor, but I am not the smartest person in the room. But I want to be surrounded by smart people, people who are not afraid to speak their mind and most importantly, able to execute their duties effectively,” he said.
Known for his unconventional style of going to the ground to check things out minus the entourage and outriders, Nor Hisham said this was something that he did when he was the MPSJ president and Hulu Selangor and Gombak district officer.
“Driving on my own and seeing things without an entourage gives me a fresh perspective on what’s happening at ground level and it saves time too.
“Some people think that I am snooping on my officers but I am not. I just prefer to go down and observe alone at times.”
Asked how different it is managing a metropolis like Kuala Lumpur compared to Hulu Selangor, Nor Hisham jokingly said, no traffic jam!
“Hulu Selangor is as big as Melaka, and has a population of 150,000. I used to drive around there on my own too and saw a lot of padi fields, small streams and hills.
“I dealt with issues like sand washing, illegal sandmining, timber theft.
“In Kuala Lumpur it’s pretty much the same like in any metropolis, ie traffic jams, development issues, homeless problem and uncollected rubbish.”
Asked to cite some of his achievements, Nor Hisham said he could not take credit for any one thing as it was a team effort, with support from Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad.
Nor Hisham said he was happy that ridership for GoKL bus routes in residential areas had increased.
“We now have seven routes focusing on residential areas with the latest being Setiawangsa, covering hospitals and schools.
“I was told the latest ridership figures are an average of 1.68 million passengers per month.
“Also the number of cars going into the city centre has reduced by 500. Some may say that it’s a small figure, but I say it’s a good start.”
Another milestone is the setting up of a learning centre for the children of Chow Kit.
The centre, which is managed by DBKL’s Community Development and Urban Wellbeing Department, is the brainchild of the mayor.
“When I was a child growing up in Setapak, I studied in Maxwell Secondary School. Every day, my school bus would take us through Chow Kit before dropping us off at home,” he recalled.
“I used to see little children, hanging out in the alleys and playing around the area. I often wondered why they were not in school.
“When I became older, I understood better and always wanted to do something for them,” he said, adding that setting up the centre was one of the first things he pursued upon being appointed mayor.
The Chow Kit Community Learning Centre is a sanctuary
for children in the area, where they have a place to read and use the computer.
“I cannot save everyone, but there are a few good kids who will turn out to be better persons because they were given a helping hand,” he said.
The mayor also touched on the micro-housing facility which gives those from the lower-income group (B40) an opportunity to rent a room for only RM100 a month in the heart of the city.
Utilising DBKL’s building in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, the partly furnished units house three to seven people.
“If someone is working in Sogo department store, they can stay in the unit and save on rental and transport costs.
“We are building more of these facilities all over the city as we feel that it is a necessity today,” he said.
In the pipeline
As for future plans, Nor Hisham said DBKL was in the process of identifying land to be gazetted as pocket parks.
“We are looking at every square inch of government land. Mining land, lake land, park land, open space, any small pocket of land that belongs to us.
“We are going to turn them into mini pocket parks or green spaces for the community, no matter
“We will plant trees and place benches at these spots so that people can use them before they are ‘hijacked’,” said Nor Hisham in jest.
On Budget 2020, the mayor said there would be a higher allocation to upgrade infrastructure of public facilities such as the Perdana Botany Park and adding more LED lights as well as beautification for Visit Malaysia 2020.
“We are maintaining the lighting up of the Sultan Abdul Samad heritage building on Jalan Raja at night.
“We are hoping to get back the Panggung Bandaraya building from the Tourism and Culture Ministry and hope to start refurbishment works soon.
“It is going to be a busy 2020,” said the mayor.
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