In Selangor, a dream frays
PETALING JAYA, June 4 — In Kelana Jaya, Seri Setia assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is asking state development agency PKNS to stop developing a recreational field as development plans are based on an unlawful local plan.
Nothing surprising about it except that Nik Nazmi’s party, PKR, runs the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government. And the latest turn of events is just a rerun of the saga of underdevelopment, development and overdevelopment.
Selangor undoubtedly is a sprawling state that requires careful management as it has one of the biggest populations in the country. Unlike the biggest state in the peninsula, Pahang, where there are many areas of underdevelopment, Selangor offers the visitor and resident almost everything under the sun.
Lush forest reserves and mountains to climb? Check. High-end luxury estates to middle-class enclaves and low-cost housing? Check. Thriving industries which range from automotive, aviation, crafts to education prosper in the state. Selangor is the richest state and also the most developed.
And yet, driving through the state can be jarring. Driving into Orang Asli settlements beyond Dengkil reveal palm oil estates after palm oil estates and secondary jungles that are so still, so humid, is an unsettling experience. Heading to more populated and popular areas like Cheras can also be lonely — the highways may have heavy traffic, and there are infrastructure projects everywhere, and yet, there’s a feeling of desolation. Sometimes, even in the most busy of places, it can also make for an isolating time.
The older part of Petaling Jaya is renowned for its retro charm and old-world atmosphere. Bukit Gasing. Happy Mansions. The numerous Jaya malls. Civil servants and professionals live here. It seems like everyone knows each other. In short, PJ is a Malaysian version of Wisteria Lane.
The last four years saw the state in the hands of PR. Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim is the mentri besar of the state, and is renowned as a shrewd corporate man. As a politician? The views are mixed. Unlike Penang where the successes are apparent, Selangor’s growth in the last four years has been fraught with political highs and lows, and sand. Khalid and his team have their hands full.
Somewhere in Rawang
A visit to Taman Bunga Raya, a low-cost housing area off Bukit Beruntung, can only be described as depressing. The flats were built by a local property conglomerate, in the hope that the area would develop. There is a Tesco nearby, though its presence is not so welcome by residents. “There’s so much development near it, and all those pylons, that we can’t get a signal or have calls come through,” a local complained.
The flats are not unlike other low-cost housing estate. What makes them different from others are that not all the flats have been taken up by residents; many are left empty despite the cheap rentals. Malays make up the demographic, though it is the foreign workers employed at the nearby factories who drive the spending habits of the locality.
“The locals will spend RM50 on the necessities each time they visit our sundry shop, but the Banglas(deshis), Indonesians, they spend up to RM200 per shopping trip,” Raja Hamdan Raja Mansor observes. He and his wife Normah Manan have been living in the area for almost six years. Thinking that a new life in a new area would mean a better financial future, they came and opened a small sundry shop, to find that it was a struggle.
What would make things better for the two? “In the beginning, living here was slow. There was not much around here,” Normah says. The area’s isolation from business has not helped with the local economy, even at present time. Despite it being near the highway, business has not picked up. Transportation is limited — for many of the couples and families living in the area, cars are used only during the weekends. Motorcycles are a cheaper and easier option.
Raja Hamdan feels that more corporations should come to provide employment opportunities for the residents, but there has been so much talk that he doesn’t know what to believe anymore.
“This is a BN area, even though Rawang is under PKR,” he says. However, as far as he is concerned, a politician is a politician; they talk more than they deliver. The BN representative only comes out when it is elections time and makes very brief visits when there are weddings. PKR? “Well, there’s some improvement if you want to call it that. Food donation, all that… but it’s not much.”
Who will he vote in the coming elections?
“Well, I won’t be ticking off a party I dislike, that’s for sure. And who I like is my secret. Right now, all we can think about is covering the shop’s overheads. When I think back of how RM300 was more than enough for me when I left school, and how RM300 today is not even enough to sustain me and my business in a day…”
The husband and wife are disappointed by the young’s apathy. They don’t want to work — they just want a good time and sniff glue. They work only if there is a reason like an impending engagement or wedding. They live with their parents and expect them to pick up the slack. This is something very alien to Raja Hamdan and Normah, who come from a generation of enterprising Malays. Their enterprises may be small, but their friends and family have always worked.
It’s not just economic activities that should be held in Taman Bunga Raya but also sports, events which get the community involved. The young need something healthy to participate in. He blames this apathy partly on the current education system. The teachers of old were dedicated and good people. These days, he says, teachers are more concerned about getting their paycheque.
The two converse with the customers who come to buy at their shop. “We nasihat… advise… the young kids who come, but they don’t listen. The young Malays have this motto: Ah, nantilah! They wait until the last minute before panicking!” Even their parents are contented with their lot.
Maybe with more factories, more people living in the area, it would inspire everyone to be more competitive and demand more from their lives, Normah says. She and her husband are giving themselves a few more years before they decide to call it quits. It’s not a healthy place to live, they say.