Kuala Lumpur residents are up in arms. From Taman Desa to Taman Connaught, from Kg Bharu to TTDI to Bangsar, KLites are outraged and angry at the latest perceived antics of DBKL: the proposal to increase the assessment rate of properties by up to 200% (or more, even).
On a private business radio station on Thursday evening, I heard irate and disgruntled callers hue and cry about a plethora of concerns related to this proposal, including:
- why hasn’t the assessment rate been increased gradually in 21 years
- why the sudden hike
- what does DBKL intend to do with all this money
- does DBKL actually need all this money
- is DBKL accountable to KL residents… and more.
And given the large turnout at forums and gatherings organised by Pakatan Rakyat MPs regarding this issue, as well as the nearly 3,000 complaint letters and possibly thousands more protest signatures gathered to date, it appears that the Federal Territories Minister, KL Mayor, and DBKL have opened up quite the Pandora’s box.
Whether DBKL will eventually call off this move will be revealed when the Mayor - an unelected political appointee - reads out DBKL’s 2014 budget speech. Perhaps it will go the way of the silly 12-year cap on car lifetime policy, which was promptly withdrawn after the issue was brought to the fore by Pandan MP, Rafizi Ramli.
Or perhaps it will be more like the GST, which was first discussed when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was Finance Minister (he rejected it) but more seriously toyed with but withdrawn during the Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi administration, only to rear its ugly head after Datuk Seri Najib Razak led BN to its worst electoral victory in its six decade of being in power.
I have a feeling this issue is more like the latter.
At the heart of the matter, the people who live and work in Kuala Lumpur are no longer just mere numbers or statistics. We are more organised now, and with the power of social media can mobilise our voices to make sure our opinions count.
Post-GE13, the rakyat demand accountability, transparency, and honesty in every administration. Such is the will of the people and the true spirit of democracy.
We see it in public discourse that arose after the 2012 Auditor-General’s Report was made public; we see it when people commented non-stop after the Ministry of Youth and Sports confirmed RM1.6mil was used to bring in K-Pop performers during the 2012 Youth Day celebrations in Putrajaya; we see it in FB newsfeeds and Twitter posts when it was made known that Datuk Seri Rosmah flew to Qatar on a private jet okayed by Cabinet.
The Rakyat wants to make those in power accountable to the rakyat, the very source of Putrajaya’s mandate.
As the old saying goes, “No taxation without representation”. And right now, when we come back to KL and City Hall, there is definitely taxation with no representation; despite Pakatan Rakyat’s electoral landslide victory in most of KL, PR MPs have practically no say and no substantial representation in City Hall.
In fact for the longest time, PR MPs faced numerous difficulties gaining access to DBKL facilities like halls for programmes with residents. There is something fundamentally and morally wrong about this, and eventually this is something the rakyat must push to correct.
For the time being, as we go on living day-to-day in this muggy, manic, magical city called Kuala Lumpur, let us accept that with social media and the powerful sense of connectedness it brings, we are collectively more powerful now than ever before.
And I believe that it is this collective power which we must harness in order to bring about the changes we need to make KL - and eventually all of Malaysia - a better place for one and for all.
> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own