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Illegal to bar others from housing areas

17/05/2004 The Star By Egalite, Kuala Lumpur

 

The good people at Desa Seri Hartamas have many things going for them. Their houses are well built with spacious gardens and a central playground. This is enhanced by the housing estate sitting on a choice location.

A few years ago there were many burglaries and snatch thefts as the place was rather isolated then. The residents rallied around to combat this intrusion into their tranquillity and security. They hired private security guards to patrol their grounds.

They were among the first in the country to do so. Things were well again. Desa Seri Hartamas was an exemplary housing development and its value soared.

Employing security guards is perfectly legitimate so long as they know their limitations. But that does not seem to be the case here.

Initially the security guards only patrolled the area which I believe is about all they can do under the law.
As time went on, however, they became bolder.

There were many instances when they trailed visitors.

This was later taken a notch up when they began to question people passing through, which one can only put down to the guards looking for something to do or to kill boredom.

On one occasion a guard actually asked me to move on when I had stopped to answer my cellphone.
Things took a turn for the worse when temporary barricades were placed on the roads leading into the area, narrowing it such that it became a problem entering and leaving.

These barricades were then extended completely across the roads during school hours, denying parents access through the area to the school nearby.

Residents of this housing estate have taken the law into their own hands.

Recently, my daughter complained of a sore throat and as it was past nine in the evening, I decided to go to the pharmacy in Desa Seri Hartamas which opened until late.

Well surprise! Desa Seri Hartamas has now become a gated housing estate.

A metal barrier with the swing mechanism has been built. A guard at the barrier refused me entry as I had no resident's sticker.

While I was explaining to the guards that they had no authority to block a public road, a resident who was returning home, told me that I had no right of entry to "his" housing estate as I was not a resident.

Just like other housing estates, Desa Seri Hartamas is a public area that became so when City Hall took over the administration of the development. The streetlights, roads, grass verges, garbage disposal and sewerage are all managed by the local authority.

Being a public area, anyone has the right to visit, stay and drive through Desa Seri Hartamas. The attempt by the residents to make it their private enclave is illegal and a breach of the constitutional rights of other citizens.

I sympathise with the residents that their area invites unnecessary visitors and traffic as the business centre next to them is today second to none in vibrancy.

The principle is, if you cannot accept it you have the option of moving out but not the option of keeping others out.

City Hall should not be lulled by the security argument in allowing residents to break the law nor condone it by turning a blind eye. This is a breach of city by-laws and the freedom of other Malaysians.

If this is not nipped in the bud, a whole movement to barricade themselves by other housing estates will ensue; it has been replicated in Medan Damansara nearby. Next, these residents may decide that having come so far, they may as well go all the way and, start collecting toll to help pay the guards.

Since I live in a cul-de-sac, all I need is a single guard to start a similar operation. Where then will all this lead us to?

 

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