Make OSC meetings public: Ban Lee


The development control system should be transparent and accountable, says former MPPP Councillor Goh Ban Lee. “As an immediate move, One Stop Centre (OSC) meetings should be opened to the public so that ratepayers know how their councillors and government officers do their job.”

Now that would be really transparent.

This is Ban Lee’s commentary in theSun:

Towards open systems
Posted on 13 August 2012 – 06:55pm

Goh Ban Lee

THE controversies over hill-slope development in Penang have taken a turn for the worse. The integrity of the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) is now questioned by a former senior officer.

According to him, the MPPP has lost its independence in terms of functions under the Local Government Act 1976 and not protecting the interests of the public (“Ex-town planner makes his case”, Aug 8).

Former acting director to the town planning department, Khoo Boo Soon, was referring to points raised by MPPP president Datuk Patahiyah Ismail, who had replied to his earlier statements in the press. The charges and counter charges between former colleagues have attracted considerable attention of not only people who know them personally, but also those who are interested in town planning and development control.

The spats between Khoo and Patahiyah did not take place in a vacuum. They were related to reports of indiscriminate development on hill-slopes. Instead of focusing on what could be done to mitigate the ill effects of projects and better development control in the future, politicians and their supporters caused the debates to degenerate into who was responsible: the present Pakatan Rakyat state government or the former Barisan Nasional state government.

In an atmosphere of impending general elections, this is understandable although it is doubtful if the accusations could change the votes of Penang voters.

A question that eventually arose was: why did the council renew projects that were approved when the Barisan Nasional was in power in Penang but had not begun development works until the new government took over? Planning application approvals last only one year.

The reply should have been that as a general rule, renewals are given routinely unless there are drastic changes in circumstances. Furthermore, they are solely the decisions of the council. Instead, there were reports that the council would be subjected to hefty compensation claims if the renewals were to be denied.

Khoo’s initial statement in the press was that there should be no compensation if the projects had not started. Unfortunately, in the exchange of views, personal issues were included. What began as a development control issue has evolved into a personal spat.

Hopefully, everyone will quickly realise that nothing can be gained from quarrelling in the press, unless one is a politician. Things said in the heat of the moment can lead to difficulties.

The important task is to search for new development control procedures so that projects that are detrimental to the welfare of the people or the environment will not be approved. They should also ensure that misunderstandings and wrongful allocation of blame will not occur again.

Development projects are usually controversial, especially when there are no well formulated and gazetted development control plans. Making things worse, as Malaysians become richer, they also become more selfish.

The development control system should be transparent and accountable. As an immediate move, One Stop Centre (OSC) meetings should be opened to the public so that ratepayers know how their councillors and government officers do their job.

Ultimately, the whole process of development control should be changed. For example, it is not fair for the head of the town planning department to present applications for planning permission to the OSC. He or she is put in a very difficult position. The professional consultants and property developers should present their plans and answer questions from members of the OSC.

Furthermore, there is no need to classify documents related to the approval of development plans as confidential. Eventually, the development projects are for all to see and touch.

OSC meetings should be recorded and the recordings kept for posterity. Twenty or 50 years down the road, scholars may want to know how the cities evolved and who were the heroes or idiots who played a role in the development of the cities.

It is interesting to note that until the late 1960s, minutes of the George Town City Council meetings were recorded verbatim by stenographers who then typed them on stencils to reproduce copies for distribution to members of the committee and for historical records. With the technology today, it is so easy to have recordings of all meetings. The storage space is minimal compared to the thick folios of verbatim minutes.

Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee was a councillor in the MPPP from 1989 to 1995 and was a member of the committee that approved applications to undertake land development. Comments: [email protected]

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ong eu soon
23 Aug 2012 11.35pm

Another small victory for Penangites, MPPP rejected the planning permission for SP Setia’s project at Sungai Nibong on the ground that the development density of 87 units per acre will cause serious traffic problem. The developer is expect to appeal against the decision with the State Appeal Board. Where is the hundreds of millions of ringgit lawsuit that will cause MPPP to go bankrupt?

ong eu soon
18 Aug 2012 11.45pm

A small victory due to coming election, the MPPP decided to reduce the development density form 87 unit per acre to between 15 to 30 units per acre for the area s between jalan pangkor and jalan kelawei.

19 Aug 2012 8.40am
Reply to  ong eu soon

If this is true, then MPPP is ‘playing’ a politically expedient strategy. Public interest & quality of life should not be a dice (chance) nor a game plan for ‘whom?’.
Then if after the GE, what will happen to this strategy?
Don’t take us for fools.

ong eu soon
20 Aug 2012 12.49am
Reply to  tunglang

Now you see the true color of Lim guan Eng. He will change anything for the sake of election. Who can guarantee that he will not change anything after election. It is unfair for both the people and the developers. You don’t change the rule of the game at the wimp and fancy of a stupid idiot!

ong eu soon
18 Aug 2012 5.49pm

We not only have serious problem on people who run the state government and MPPP. We also have problem on accountability and transparency. The hillslope issues magnified these serious shortages on the self proclaim champion of Competency, Accountability and Transparency. CAT my foot!

Gerakan K
Gerakan K
18 Aug 2012 2.22pm

“former MPPP Councillor Goh Ban Lee”

“The integrity of the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) is now questioned by a former senior officer.”

Again, so sad. DAP gag order cannot applies to Goh.

Anak Tanjong Tokong Lama
18 Aug 2012 12.49pm

What my friend, Datuk Dr Goh Ban Lee, did not say is that in the late 1960s, before local council elections were aboloished and is still abolished nearly forty years later despite the intervening Athi Nahapapan Report of the 1970s, is significant. The council at that time was run by the Labour Party under, if I am not mistaken, the late C.Y. Choy, whose sincere and valuable contribution is now celebrated. Hence, it is not surprising that “the minutes of the George Town City Council meetings were recorded verbatim by stenographers who then typed them on stencils to reproduce copies… Read more »

18 Aug 2012 12.25pm

While the greedy developers get to cut the hills unimpeded & now have the thickest bile to ask for 10% increase in house price (with an obvious oversupply) in Penang, we are left to sort out the foolish deeds of those in authorities.
Boh Hoot is now laughing at the foolish fiasco playing on the street stage (live nightly) of ‘Koh Tai’ during the Hungry Ghost Month. ‘Kui phak kui’ (ghost fighting ghosts)!
BTW, ghosts don’t understanding earthly rules of law & administration!
Only kui behavioral antics.