COMMENT | Money is great leveller for local councils

COMMENT | Last week, as cameras rolled showing images of a raid by the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) on illegal business operations, its deputy mayor Mohd Rashidi Ruslan was in his element, thumping his chest and listing out the “achievements of the council” in curbing illegal activities in the Sungai Buloh area.

Between January and July, he thundered, action had been taken against 25 unlicensed premises in the area and 19 premises operated by migrants have also been seized – whatever that means.

At the media conference, Mohd Rashidi disclosed startling facts which were a stark reminder of what the council had failed to do in the previous seven months.

That morning raids leading to the demolition of illegal structures, unlicensed snooker parlours and gambling dens resulted in summonses issued to more than 100 businesses in the area.

Weren’t these businesses operational in the past months? Why were raids only carried out after a video of the illegal operations went viral? If the founder of the Hot Burger chain had not taken to Facebook to air his disgust at the inaction, would the council have taken action?

The fact that the “tutup dua mata” syndrome has been embedded in the systems of local councils is an open secret, and for a fistful of ringgit, there’s always a solution when the line of replies is along the lines of “sudah, tapi boleh settle.”

Far too many issues of corruption, abuse of power and incompetence have been highlighted in the past. Who would have forgotten the infamous “palace” in Port Klang built by former assemblyman Zakaria Derus?

He built a 16-room mansion without submitting plans on a piece of land which was meant for low-cost housing. He had not paid assessment for 12 years for a house he was already occupying. He was not penalised despite the furore...

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