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Moving at snail’s pace
01/09/2007 NST Salleh Buang

We are now 50 years as a free and independent nation. A joyous occasion indeed for all Malaysians, as we pat ourselves on the back for the splendid progress we have made over the last five decades.

Did I say "progress"? Perhaps you may want to revise your opinion after you read two stories I recently picked up from our local media.

The first was a letter published on April 17, 2007 under the heading, "Land Office delays – there's no sense of urgency".

In it, DT of Mentakab, said people in Pahang "have to wait more than 12 months" to know whether the piece of land they bought had been successfully transferred to their names.

There is little the ordinary folk in the state can do during this long, agonising period, except "to bite their nails and hope nothing goes wrong".

According to DT, even a simple application for consent to charge one's land "takes 12 months to be approved". In the light of the state's snail-pace delivery system, he commented that Pahang must have the slowest land office machinery in the country.

What DT was most distressed about is that the "inefficiencies are tolerated by the state government".

That is his personal opinion and while it may not be true of all land offices in the state, it is food for thought.

Regardless of the accuracy of the statement, the point that needs attention is that whatever the situation on the ground may be, the general perception of ordinary people like DT is that things move at a snail's pace in our land offices.

Remember this adage: For most people, their perception is their reality.

Moving southwards to Johor, just try to imagine what would happen if such a state of affairs were to be prevalent in the Iskandar Development Region? Wouldn't it conflict with Khazanah’s efforts to bring in foreign investors from across the Causeway and points beyond?

Think again, if you believe such an awful thing can never happen in Johor.

The second matter I wish to raise was caught in the May 5, 2007 issue of my favourite paper.

In Muar, Johor, reader NGC used up his life’s savings and took a bank loan to buy a flat in a four-storey walk-up project.

He wrote in his Letter to the Editor that the apartment was completed in 1997, and he obtained vacant possession, together with a Certificate of Practical Completion in 1998. He also received the keys to the apartment, but since the Certificate of Fitness for Occupation (CF) had not been issued, he was in no position to occupy his dream home.

This old housing industry practice that permits a developer to hand over keys and vacant possession of a "completed house" to the purchaser, but without the CF, has for a long time made a mockery – as enunciated by former Lord President Tun Suffian Hashim more than two decades ago – of the principle that the housing law is meant to protect purchasers.

Anyway, NGC was told "all the technical departments (Public Works Department, Syarikat Air Johor, Tenaga Nasional Bhd, Health Department, Fire and Rescue Department, Telekom Malaysia Bhd) had given their consent" to the application for CF. He was therefore not unduly worried that the approval did not come together with the keys to his house.

However, his dream of moving-in was rudely shattered by Majlis Perbandaran Muar (MPM) when it dropped a bombshell on NGC and his co-purchasers by saying the access road to the housing project "was on private property". It was something the authority "overlooked" when approving the project in 1987.

Unbelievable, but true! NGC said many meetings were held between the developer as well as the state and local authorities. Apparently everyone agreed that "it was the fault of the authorities" for approving the layout and building plans in 1987.

And, this fault was repeated – meaning, the mistake was not detected – years later when the developer "officially obtained renewals of the plans in 1996". Obviously, some people were sleeping on the job!

Each time a meeting was held at the council, NGC and his co-purchasers would wait patiently outside, hoping for good news. And the message was the same each time: That MPM and the Housing and Local Government Ministry would "solve the problem".

Sadly, he said "we were continuously disappointed". That disappointment has worsened into despair over the past decade. These things certainly sow the seed of distrust in the local government.

Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea – the snail's pace with which our land offices move and their slipshod work – where can the small man go for redress? Yes, the media. Hence, these two sad tales were carried in the local dailies.

I read a long time ago that the "true measure of a good leader" is determined by the way he treats the little people. I agree.

The true quality of admin-istration in our land offices and at local authorities can clearly be seen in the way common, decent folk such as DT of Mentakab and NGC of Muar are treated by the little Napoleons.

Do reflect on this as you celebrate our 50 years of independence. Merdeka!


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