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City Hall officers contend with political interference


Awnings put up by a restaurant being demolished for encroaching on a public road in Kuala Lumpur. — Photos: YAP CHEE HONG and BAVANI M/The Star

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) officers tasked with cracking down on illegal extensions of commercial, residential and stratified properties say they have experienced varying levels of interference from politicians.

Speaking to StarMetro on condition of anonymity, highly placed sources from the Enforcement Department say most of the cases involved illegal renovation of commercial units like restaurants.

“There have been times when we were at the site armed with all the permits and paperwork from PPTGWP (Federal Territories Land and Mines Office) and with machinery ready to demolish the illegal structures, not to mention the police on standby, a call will come at the eleventh hour from a politician instructing us to abort,” said a senior officer from the department.

Another senior officer, from the DBKL Building Services Department, said DBKL could enforce the law on the spot under the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 but often, they were prevented from doing so.

“After notices are issued to the owner to remove the extensions, we will get a barrage of appeal and support letters asking us to stop enforcement.

“This is where the problem starts as we are stopped from doing our job but the illegal renovations continue until the structures get too big and then we won’t be able to do anything about them,’’ said the officer.

Citing a restaurant which had been operating for over a decade on a road divider in the city, the officer elaborated that the proprietor sought help from politicians each time he was ordered to demolish his business premises.

A DBKL officer using a crane to remove a giant exhaust fan that was illegally put up by a business.A DBKL officer using a crane to remove a giant exhaust fan that was illegally put up by a business.

“He knew that he was breaking multiple by-laws and yet he managed to get a temporary occupation licence (TOL) to operate despite not having a building permit.

“This is setting a dangerous precedent which can have far-reaching consequences for everyone operating on road reserves,’’ said the officer.

Another owner of a business operating in Brickfields who constructed an illegal extension on government reserve land, similarly relied on a politician to avoid being penalised. There were MACC reports lodged.

“We also get a lot of interference in the form of support letters from political parties asking us not to ‘disturb’ a certain business even though it has violated multiple guidelines.

“And they come from all parties, notwithstanding who is in power,’’ he said.

A former Kuala Lumpur mayor, who preferred to remain unnamed, said he was constantly under pressure not to disturb certain individuals who had broken building by-laws.

“During my time, we demolished many walk-up flats’ illegal extensions that encroached on common areas not part of their parcel.

“I got a lot of flak for this because some felt that the B40 occupants of the low-cost flats need the space.

“But they broke the law and if you allow one person to do it, then everyone will want to do it. Where do you draw the line?’’ he asked.

When asked how this could be stopped, he replied, “If the media can defend DBKL and other agencies from politicians, MPs and others with political connections, then we can do our job.”

Asked if the interference was preventing civil servants from doing their jobs without fear or favour, he said: “Of course. Political affiliations also play a big role in department transfers.

“In the end, everyone gets demotivated and they no longer care about doing what is right anymore.”

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