AS of June 20, I officially live in a city. Bandaraya Petaling
Jaya to be precise. But seriously, does any of my fellow residents
really feel that our suburb has changed for the better?
not talking about physical structures, like buildings and roads, which
are often wrongly used as a yardstick for development. Mostly
intentionally, by politicians, the more cynical among us would say.
PJ, to many of us, is still very much a residential area. I also work
in Petaling Jaya, which means that my life revolves around this new
Like many Penangites who headed to the Klang Valley for career reasons,
I chose to live in PJ because it is, in many ways, home away from home.
There are many Penangites here and Penang food is readily available,
though one must add that many hawkers misuse the Penang label to churn
out stuff that is far from the real thing.
Eating out means having our meals at the famous SS2 hawkers' centre or
at PJ Old Town. Back then, the SS2 centre was a road, closed to
traffic, in the evenings.
Nothing has really changed. The hawkers are now operating from a
covered area. A little cleaner, perhaps, but they still won't win any
prizes in that category.
The road where the hawkers used to operate is used as a wet market in
the mornings. Again, they won't win any prizes for cleanliness.
The MPPJ enforcement officers are still the most disliked people
around. They are still regarded as corrupt. Nothing has really changed
in the two decades of my life here in PJ.
As a young father then, I would take my wife and daughter for an
evening stroll at the Jaya Supermarket in Section 14. That was the only
decent shopping complex then.
Today, Section 14 is still as congested as ever, and with more huge
buildings coming up, one can expect the situation to worsen. There are
many banks there but, seriously, have you ever seen policemen on patrol
Of course, we now have more interesting malls in PJ, like One Utama,
Atria, The Curve and Ikano Power Centre, but back in those days, PJ was
truly very boring.
There were plenty of pubs to choose from, though. For the disco kaki, how can we forget the Picadilly in Damansara or the All That Jazz joint next to the still surviving Mungo Jerry bah kut teh shop?
Coming from Penang, where the name of every street and every school has
a story to tell, I could never fathom why the early planners chose to
use the numerical system in PJ, particularly when the sequence is never
The people of PJ pay high assessment rates, but in terms of services, I
can safely say that not many of us would give the council a positive
A re-branding exercise will never save a troubled company if the work
culture, content and targets are not met, as any shareholder can tell a
chief executive officer.
The MPPJ president is now the Datuk Bandar but we are not sure where PJ
is heading towards as a city. Resident groups have become more vocal
but they are being dismissed as irritants.
Their petitions are not taken seriously, judging from the dismissive attitude of the council.
Naturally, the Barisan Nasional politicians are worried while the
opposition is taking full advantage of the grievances of the PJ people
to win their sympathy. The incumbent Members of Parliament and state
assemblymen must be mindful that their votes come from the PJ people,
not the MPPJ.
Sure, they need the council to support their constituency work but they
had better know which side they should be on, if they want to keep
their posts in the next elections. More than ever, the municipal
councillors (or city councillors now) should realise their action or
lack of action is being checked by the people and the media.
Participatory democracy may still be alien to some councillors but they
should not forget that the residents are more aware of their rights. I
would advise these councillors to head to the library for a Political
Science 101 textbook if they still keep to their old ways of doing
For the council, it is not just about filling up potholes, keeping the
streets clean or putting up ugly structures at roundabouts. And they
cannot even do a decent job of these simple tasks in the first place.
The real challenge for the Datuk Bandar and the councillors is to make PJ a city that has soul.
What is the benchmark for PJ? Do we want PJ to be a smaller version of
Melbourne or Singapore? Do we just live day by day, content with what
we have, or do we have a vision of what we want PJ to be in 10 or 20
years' time? Will we be proactive or reactive?
Does the Datuk Bandar intend to use the strengths of the PJ resident
groups to the advantage of the council or will he continue to view
these talented people with a jaundiced eye?
We want PJ to be as clean and as well-maintained as Shah Alam, but
surely not as soulless and dull as the latter. We do not expect the
kind of landscaping in Putrajaya, given PJ's small size, but we would
be happy if there is a more systematic method in keeping the city
And if the council can find the budget for the ugly structures that are
all over PJ, we wonder why PJ cannot have artistic and cultural
activities, not the RTM type, that would surely have the support of the
Unlike Shah Alam or Putrajaya, PJ is uniquely multi-cultural and its
pluralism should be used to project itself as a successful Malaysian
city. For a start, the Datuk Bandar should seriously shed PJ's image as
the Bandaraya Bill Board of Malaysia.